Researcher wins $2.6 million grant for depression care study

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — With the nation’s economic crisis contributing to greater workplace stress, providing effective mental health care for employees may be more important than ever.

Unfortunately, the approach most companies take in purchasing mental health care benefits is flawed and unlikely to produce the best outcomes for either their bottom line or their employees’ welfare, according to a Florida State University College of Medicine researcher.

Kathryn Rost, the Elizabeth Freed Professor in Mental Health at the College of Medicine, has received a $2.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to conduct research with potential to change purchasing behavior for companies trying to provide mental health care to employees. The work has enormous potential implications that go beyond mental health. Rost is focusing on depression care management, but the findings likely will apply across a broad range of employee health care coverage.

Absenteeism and lost productivity at work due to depression costs American businesses $51 billion annually, according to a 2003 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. At the same time, companies that purchase depression care management programs for employees have grown accustomed to basing product selection decisions on cost rather than effectiveness. Ten years of research backed by more than $17 million in NIH funding has provided Rost with clear evidence that the current approach is more costly.

“They’re saving money in one pocket and spending it out of the other,” Rost said, citing the excess absenteeism and lost productivity associated with poorly managed depression. “What we’re saying to employers is, ‘You need to purchase on the basis of value, not on the basis of cost alone.'”

Getting that message across is complicated.

The majority of companies that sell mental health care coverage have been programmed to sell cheaper plans
(source: http://www.bio-medicine.org/medicine-news-1/Researcher-wins–242-6-million-grant-for-depression-care-study-39863-1/)

Richard Reid is the founder of Pinnacle Proactive, Specialising in the Employee Assistance ProgramStress ManagementStaff Retention & Absenteeism. Take a Proactive Approach to Growing Your Organisation & its People. For more info visit http://www.pinnacleproactive.com

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