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Updated: November 22, 2021 editorial

Editorial: Get our healthcare system more funding

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed a multitude of problems long lingering in the healthcare system: staffing shortages, racial inequities, increasing mental health needs, lack of access, lack of funding, rising costs, mistrust in the medical establishment. And there are concerns the system is increasingly being structured to limit exposure for insurers, rather than primarily serving the patients or providers. The sheer number of issues is daunting, yet areas can be addressed without breaking the bank.

There are solutions, but they need to be given enough time, innovation, willpower, and funding. In her story “Addressing the behavioral health crisis”, Senior Staff Writer Monica Benevides explores the many efforts being made to reduce the number of patients waiting for behavioral health care. In addition to innovations like a mobile respite clinic from Worcester nonprofit Open Sky Community Services and the UMass Memorial Health - Harrington expanding its psychiatric unit, the Massachusetts legislature is considering a bill to provide $400 million of American Rescue Plan Act funds to bolster the behavioral health sector. Included in that nine-figure sum would be the recruitment of 2,000 people into the profession, the creation of an online portal to help with bed searches, and a mandate for insurance companies to provide coverage of certain acute services.

Even these local efforts, plus the significant state funding will not eliminate the mental and behavioral health needs that have been exacerbated by the pandemic, but it will go a long way to getting thousands of people the help they need. Sometimes additional funding is the answer, while in other areas innovation can help address areas of care, such as new technological breakthroughs in vascular surgery at UMass Memorial Health, which reduces the need for lengthy procedures, as Staff Writer Sloane M. Perron details in her “Staying upbeat” story. This new technology could improve outcomes and make care more effective and efficient in the coming decades where changing demographics will produce more patients who need vascular surgery.

The pandemic has brought on a detailed scan of our healthcare system, exposing its weaknesses and inequities for all to see – but also showing some of its greatest strengths. By approving the massive $400-million allocation towards mental health care, Massachusetts can make a big dent in one of our most acute needs. We can’t spend our way out of trouble, but we can spend wisely in addressing some of the biggest challenges and get a really strong return on our investment.

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