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Surgeon general: US 'still not doing enough' to address growing mental health crisis

Surgeon General Vivek MurthyVivek MurthyA full pandemic recovery demands mental health support Biden to appear on MSNBC before town hall on vaccines Surgeon general: US 'still not doing enough' to address growing mental health crisis MORE said the U.S. is “still not doing enough” to address the growing mental health crisis amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The surgeon general said during The Hill’s “Future of Healthcare: Bold Bets in Health” event that he had previously been “deeply concerned” about mental health among Americans before the coronavirus struck.

Anxiety and depression levels have risen during the pandemic, he said, adding they had already been increasing ahead of COVID-19.

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"Here's where my concerns are that we're still not doing enough to meet the extraordinary demand that we have,” he told The Hill’s editor-at-large, Steve Clemons. 

Murthy considers the next priorities to be expanding access to mental health services, including through integrated primary care, training more mental health care providers amid a shortage in available professionals and launching prevention programs to reduce the prevalence of mental illness and substance use disorders.

“I think we have a lot to do,” he said. “And I hope that we will use this opportunity during COVID, which a spotlight really has been shined on mental health, to really talk more about it, to reduce some of that stigma and invest in prevention” programs. 

The surgeon general did cite some areas of progress in the country’s handling of mental health, particularly that more people are talking about it and more funding is being directed to addressing mental health issues. 

He also said mental health parity law, which bans companies from charging more for mental health care than they would for medical or surgical care, is “still not adequately implemented.”

Experts have raised alarms saying that the pandemic would lead to a greater need for mental health services. 

A Government Accountability Office report made public last week determined that the number of people experiencing anxiety, depression and drug overdoses escalated during the COVID-19 crisis as providers were strained by layoffs and decreased hours. 

Planned Parenthood sponsored The Hill’s “Future of Healthcare: Bold Bets in Health” event.