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February 9, 2022

Survey: 23% of Central Mass. adults needed behavioral health care during pandemic’s first year

Photo | Nathan Fiske The 108-bed TaraVista Behavioral Health Center opened in Devens in 2015, before problems around addiction and behavioral and mental health were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Adults in Massachusetts struggled significantly with accessing behavioral health care during the first year of the coronavirus pandemic, according to results of the Massachusetts Health Survey facilitated by the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation, released Tuesday.

In Central Massachusetts, 23% of adults who participated in the survey reported needing behavioral health care for themselves during that time, with 24% reporting they expected to need care in the next six months.

Statewide, more than one third of respondents reported needing behavioral health care either for themselves or a family member during the pandemic’s first year, with 26% reporting they didn’t receive any. Need was highest among adults between the ages of 19 and 39, people of color, and those who reported lower-incomes.

At the same time, 28% of respondents across the Commonwealth reported an increase in alcohol or cannabis consumption, with 17% reporting their consumption habits had caused serious problems with their responsibilities at home, work, or school.

“The survey clearly shows that what was an urgent need already before the pandemic has reached a level of crisis across our state, particularly in communities of color,” said Audrey Shelto, president and CEO of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation, in a statement.

Of those who reported needing behavioral health care, 64% said the need was because of or exacerbated by the pandemic. Notably, 49% of respondents reported job losses or disruptions.

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