Study Shows Cost of $624 Million for Untreated Mental Illness in Greater Kansas City

Date: April 5, 2012
Contact: Jennifer Sykes
Phone: 816-241-7006
KANSAS CITY, MO – The Health Forward Foundation has released findings from research by The HSM Group that examines the cost of untreated mental illness in adults in Greater Kansas City (includes Johnson, Wyandotte counties in Kansas and Cass, Jackson and Lafayette counties in Missouri).

Approximately one in every 10 adults in Greater Kansas City has a serious mental illness (SMI). Although serious mental illnesses such as major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorders can be effectively treated, about 40% of cases are untreated.

Overall, the annual cost burden of untreated SMI to Greater Kansas City is estimated to be $624 million. A high proportion (87.5%) of these costs are in the form of indirect costs to employers and individuals. These include unrealized earnings due to higher unemployment rates, the cost of lost productive time at work due to untreated SMI (presenteeism), time missed from work (absenteeism), and unrealized earnings due to permanent disability or premature death (suicides).

About 10.5% of the overall costs are estimated to be direct costs, or medical expenses associated with lack of sustained treatment. Direct costs include increased inpatient care/hospitalizations, outpatient care, long-term care/nursing homes, and money spent by mental health organizations. The remaining costs are due to criminal activity, Social Security disability, and social welfare administration costs.

Untreated SMI is associated with an estimated 67 suicides, 11,000 incarcerations and over 15,000 unemployed adults are unemployed due to an SMI.

“Untreated mental illness has substantial costs on both the public and private sectors,” said Steve Roling, Health Forward President/CEO. “Delaying treatment of mental illness not only increases the likelihood of disability for the individual, but also has negative social outcomes for society as a whole. Together, we need to work to encourage early detection and fund appropriate treatment for mental illness.”

The quantitative model also estimates who bears the cost of untreated SMI. In Greater Kansas City , SMI is estimated to cost:

Nearly $228.9 million per year to private sector, including employers, institutionalization, or suicide.
$275.2 million to individuals/families annually in unrealized earning due to unemployment, disability, institutionalization or suicide.
Government – State and local governments $59.6 million per year and $58.7 million per year to Federal government.
The HSM Group developed its economic model by combining Census data with mental illness prevalence rates. It estimates there are 94,478 cases of untreated SMI in Greater Kansas City. The costs associated with SMI were estimated using peer-reviewed publications and public datasets.

For more information, including a calculator to estimate additional costs, please visit the Health Care Foundation’s website at