People are shopping at the sunny Market Square in Helsinki.

Coronavirus pandemic has impacted the operation of substance abuse and mental health services in 2020

The state of emergency caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the related restrictions, as well as the closures of operations, have affected the customer numbers, as well as the performance and costs of substance abuse and mental health services. During the coronavirus pandemic, some services had to be expanded and new services introduced, such as various remote services.

The longer-term effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the organisation of substance abuse and mental health services are difficult to assess. For example, the delayed service deficit and its cost impacts resulting from the closure of certain services are difficult to anticipate. One of the lasting effects of the coronavirus pandemic in the organization of substance abuse and mental health services is the expansion of the use of remote connections and electronic services.

The total costs of substance abuse and mental health services in Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa, Tampere, Turku and Oulu, the six largest cities in Finland, in 2020 were EUR 515.6 million. Compared to the previous year, costs increased by 4.5 percent. At the level of the six largest cities, costs increased by 4.2 per cent in substance abuse care, whilst the costs of mental health services also increased by the same 4.2 per cent, when compared to 2019.

The costs of integrated substance abuse and mental health services increased by 9.0 percent, when compared to 2019. Mental health services accounted for 69.7 per cent of the total costs of the six cities. The costs of substance abuse care per inhabitant over the age of 18 years old averaged 82 euros in the six cities and the costs of mental health services averaged 241 euros.

Outpatient services are preferred in the six cities

The majority of customers who use substance abuse and mental health services in the six cities use outpatient services, and the number of customers has increased by 2.8 per cent, when compared to 2019. The largest single share was accounted for by clients of outpatient mental health services, who accounted for 42.3 per cent of all clients at the level of the six cities. The number of visits to mental health outpatient services increased by 4.1 per cent at the level of the six cities, when compared to 2019. The second largest share, 23.7 percent of all clients, was in integrated services, which include, among other things, substance abuse and mental health services in primary health care.

In the case of heavier services, such as housing services and institutional care, the number of customers is smaller. Compared to 2019, the number of days of institutional care in substance abuse and mental health services increased by 1.8 per cent. However, 24/7 services account for the largest share of the costs of organising services. The total costs of housing services for substance abuse and mental health services in the six cities was EUR 92.4 million in 2020, which was 5.0 per cent more than the deflated costs in the previous year.

The results are evident from the publication of the Kuusikko working group, which describes the use and costs of substance abuse and mental health services in the population of the six largest cities in recent years. In addition to the performance and costs of the six largest cities, the report examines the differences between the cities in terms of substance abuse and mental health service needs. The assessment of the differences in service needs is based on an examination of the disadvantages of the population and the characteristics of substance abuse and mental health problems in the six cities.

Read more:

Substance abuse and mental health services and costs in the six largest cities  (in Finnish only)

Kuusikko working group (in Finnish only)

Image: Lauri Rotko, City of Helsinki Media Bank.