October 31, 2022

Mental healthcare demand at Mass Gen caused ‘unprecedented’ backlog

By: Tarsilla Moura

Editor's Note

Massachusetts General Hospital (Mass Gen) in Boston this summer saw an “unprecedented” surge in demand for mental healthcare services, culminating in a “staggering 880 people on its waitlist for psychiatric services,” The Washington Post October 29 reports.

According to the article, Mass Gen had to issue a letter to its physicians on August 18 asking them to stop referring psychiatry patients for non-urgent care. “Our triage staff is not able to make any progress in this waitlist with the current number of incoming referrals,” read the letter. A new letter almost 2 months later was sent, saying that the backlog still had not been addressed and that while “help [was] on the way,” it “will be slower to arrive” than Mass Gen administrators hoped.

Mass Gen is not unique in this unprecedented backlog, noted The Washington Post, given how the pandemic has exacerbated cases of anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders. The American Psychological Association reported in 2020 that seven in 10 psychologists who already contended with a waitlist said it had grown longer since the start of the pandemic. A survey of more than 300 mental health providers and policy experts done by The Washington Post further illustrated how wait times of 3 to 6 months or longer “are the norm.”

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