NHF Cardholders with Major Depressive Disorders not Accessing Treatment Regularly

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Health Fund (NHF), Rae Barrett has expressed concern that only a third of the Fund’s cardholders with major depressive disorders, are accessing benefits on a regular basis.
“We have a low enrollment and then of the number of persons who are enrolled, only one in three are using their card on a regular basis to access the medication,” he noted.
Mr. Barrett was speaking at the official launch of the Ministry of Health’s Mental Health Education Promotion Programme, at the Terra Nova Hotel, recently. He explained that the programme covers 15 chronic illnesses, including major depression and psychosis. Persons with depression only account for two per cent of the overall enrollment for the NHF card, which amounts to just over 5,000 persons. Meanwhile, some 3,587 individuals with psychosis are enrolled, accounting for just one per cent of overall membership.
The low access rate, he said, was cause for concern, against the background of an overall 19 per cent prevalence rate for major depressive disorders in the general population. This was revealed by a 2002 survey conducted by the National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA), in which 2,383 persons between 12 and 55 years of age were interviewed.
“If we use that study as the basis for projecting the prevalence in the population, you will see that in the population, one in five of us, possibly suffer from this disorder. Unfortunately, even with this high prevalence, people are very reluctant to go for treatment for mental disorders, including depression, because of the stigma and discrimination that exist in our society. All of this has a detrimental effect on the access that people need to medical services. When we look at the statistics for the NHF, we find that this is also, unfortunately, reflected in our results,” Mr. Barrett told the audience.
The same pattern of low enrollment and access to benefits is being experienced with the Jamaica Drugs for the Elderly Programme, which is also administered by the NHF. Only about 3,400 individuals who are enrolled are using their cards for drugs in the treatment of mental disorders. “All of this is really saying, one of the big drawbacks is that the doctor has to certify the condition and not too many doctors can, in a private capacity, tick on a card that you are suffering from depression and give you that card to carry to that NHF, all because of the stigma that we associate with being diagnosed with a mental disorder,” the CEO said.
He stressed that too many mental illnesses went unrecognized, untreated and under-reported because of fear and stigma. “We hope that improving community attitudes, by increasing the knowledge and understanding of mental illness, will essentially help us as a society and the persons who are responsible for treatment to come forward and for us to recognize that having a mental illness is nothing worse than having a physical illness,” Mr. Barrett said.
The CEO said the NHF was pleased to be associated with the programme, by providing a grant of $27.7 million to promote mental health, and help to reduce and eliminate the stigma and discrimination associated with it.

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