An Overview of Mental Health in Newton, Massachusetts
Newton, a Boston suburb in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, is composed of 13 villages. It is the 11th largest area in Massachusetts. Newton’s beautiful small-town ambiance features historic homes in charming, leafy neighborhoods. Newton boasts high-quality public schools and proximity to over 30 colleges and universities, including Harvard and Cambridge. Newton provides a popular residential area for students and faculty.
The famous Boston Marathon route goes through the city of Newton, and the nearly insurmountable Heartbreak Hill traverses a steeply inclined street.
Demographics Affecting Mental Health in Newton
The city of Newton reflects a diverse culture. Of the total 88,994 residents, 77.8 percent are White, 13.9 percent are Asian, 3.5 percent are Black, and 4.3 percent are Hispanic. The remaining 0.5 percent is composed of other races. The population is well educated: 48.1 percent hold graduate degrees and 28.6% hold bachelor’s degrees. Other significant facts include:
- Poverty rate: 4.36 percent
- Unemployment rate: over 3.9 percent
- Divorce rate: 11.5 percent
- Opioid-related drug fatalities in Middlesex County: 17.4 percent of the state rate
Obstacles to Mental Health
Middlesex County ranks perform well on surveys of healthy behavior, best health conditions, and most access to care. Unfortunately, Newton only ranks around 50 percent compared to national mental health statistics.
According to a mental health advocacy group, those who need mental health care in Massachusetts are vulnerable to substance abuse, homelessness and incarceration.
Top problems for mentally ill populations in Massachusetts are:
- Treatment costs preclude or limit access to services.
- Stigma, fear, and isolation of mentally ill people prevent them from reaching out for help.
- Navigating the insurance process is difficult even for those without mental illness.
- Mentally ill residents do not know how to find out what treatment options are available to them.
- Treatment providers are few and far between, making the right kind of help hard to locate.
An online survey on mental health asked questions of a cross-representative section of Massachusetts residents with mental health issues. The research goal was to discover challenges people face to get necessary mental health care.
Ten Key Weaknesses in Finding Mental Health Access
Ten key findings pointed to weaknesses in the mental health care system. This information was useful in identifying where and how to apply practical solutions:
- Medical health services are more accessible than mental health resources.
- Frequently, emergency rooms must provide mental health care.
- Those with both substance and mental health issues were least able to get care.
- There were long waits to locate and get appoints with providers.
- Insurance companies were not able to explain mental health benefits clearly.
- The majority of insurance denials were for mental illness or substance treatment.
- Insurance appeals regarding benefit denials were only marginally accepted.
- Fewer visits were allowed for the mentally ill than for regular specialists.
- Treatment costs discouraged care visits.
- Insurance did not help access enough providers or help find emergency services.
Mental Health Initiatives May Provide Treatment
Massachusetts needs additional ways to bring early mental health intervention to people in ways they can easily access. They also need help to pay for the kind of treatment they need. Children are another underserved group who need mental health care tailored specifically to their special needs.
Suggestions include a mandate to create a state-wide helpline; employ and train more people to act in peer support roles, and petition all commercial health insurance providers to cover Emergency Service Programs for both adults’ and children’s behavioral health needs. Mentally ill people needed help in evaluating which insurance companies provided the best mental health benefits.
The Faces of Mental Health Recovery
Lynda Cutrell, a Massachusetts artist, created a project called 99 Faces. She photographed the mentally ill next to those who are not ill. The two people look healthy. Viewers cannot tell which person is mentally ill. She called these people “individuals whose lives are remarkable for their recovery, not their illness.” Her portraits dissolve stereotypes about mental illness. These people need resources and treatment so they can overcome their own “Heartbreak Hill”.
To begin recovery, people searching for mental health care can access a comprehensive directory for help. E-Counseling helps Newton, Massachusetts residents easily locate the right certified mental health provider.