March 23, 2021

We know that health and wellbeing are influenced by social and environmental factors, such as education, income, living conditions, etc. This also applies to mental health. Stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses are affected by exposure to trauma, unemployment, poverty, and other social determinants of health.

In 2019, the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services funded the Center on Society and Health to produce an index that estimates the need for behavioral health services in local populations served by the state’s 40 Community Service Board (CSB) districts. To achieve this, the Center developed the Behavioral Health Index (BHI) from a statistical model that predicted the number of mentally unhealthy days among adults based on local indicators. The higher the score, the fewer mentally unhealthy days. 

While the outcome measure of mentally unhealthy days provided a measure of adult mental health, it did not fully estimate the population in need of CSB services because it did not capture individuals with substance use disorders and excluded children. The second part of this project, currently underway, will update the BHI using the Virginia All-Payer Claims Database. Separate BHIs will be computed for severe mental illness in adults, severe emotional disturbances in children ages 8 to 17 years, and substance use disorders at any age for each CSB service area.