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High prices and long wait times barrier to mental healthcare in Omaha area and elsewhere

Posted at 10:17 AM, Oct 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-19 11:17:10-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — In 2021, more people are talking about mental health, but high prices and long wait times are keeping some from getting the help they need.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 13% of people who forgo mental healthcare do so because they can’t afford it, and 12% say their insurance won’t cover it.

Dr. Abby Bjornsen-Ramig, a psychologist and associate professor of counseling at UNO, says she's seen how high costs can turn people away from counseling.

“An hour-long therapy session can be very costly out of pocket," Bjornsen-Ramig said. "You’re looking at between $60 to $250 an hour, which is very cost-prohibitive.”

Even with insurance, finding a counselor in-network and learning about their fees takes some work.

Bjornsen-Ramig says she's also seen some people quit going to counseling when they've used all their covered sessions.

On the heels of a pandemic when many people are dealing with anxiety and depression, getting an appointment could take months.

“So that can feel discouraging too if you finally work up the courage to reach out for help, and there’s not any appointments available," Bjornsen-Ramig said

In the meantime, community clinics like those at UNOoffer an affordable option to anyone in need. Graduate students offer counseling under the supervision of licensed professionals at the clinic and sessions cost around $10 according to Bjornsen-Ramig.

The National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) also offers classes and support groups for anyone who needs them, free of charge.

Carrin Meadows, executive director of Nebraska NAMI says since the pandemic began, they've been able to utilize online meeting spaces and offer more help.

“Our programs are able to complement or supplement what you currently have," Meadows said. "And with the virtual world right now that we have, it's wonderful because the NAMIs nationwide are working together. So if somebody in Omaha wants to attend a meeting, and we don’t have one at the time that they’re available, they can attend on in Hawaii.”

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