According to the latest data from the California Healthcare Foundation (CHCF), approximately one in six California adults has a mental health problem that requires attention and about one in 20 struggle with a serious mental disorder that hinders one’s ability to carry out daily activities and responsibilities. Unfortunately, half of these adults and two-thirds of adolescents with mental health needs do not receive treatment. With such skewed statistics throughout California, the territory’s treatment providers must utilize the newest research regarding these trends and address the issue accordingly and effectively.
As described in CHCF’s comprehensive 2013 report titled, “Mental Health Care in California: Painting a Picture,” there is a wide variation of serious mental illnesses in regions throughout the state. The researchers also attempted to draw conclusions from the data by comparing the rate of mental disorder with the poverty rate and number of available psychiatrists in each major county. When comparing the results of each measure, rural and inland areas tend to have a higher percentage of mental disorders while also having lower amounts of stationed psychiatrists. However, the measurements also note the lower populations in rural areas, meaning the rate of illness is subject to bigger changes.
These trends are similarly reflected in the rates of suicides in California, with larger metropolitan regions having a higher number of deaths, but rural areas having a higher mortality rate. Both of these trends are significant. Regardless of sheer volume or weighted percentage, a substantial population of Californians is not receiving the mental health care they need, regardless of where they live in the state.
With the rate of psychological disturbances rising and the number of available treatment strategies remaining stagnant and unevenly dispersed, many California clinicians are facing new peaks of patient loads. Currently, more than a third of patients visit their primary care doctor to treat psychiatric conditions due to the limited availability of specialized professionals like psychiatrists. Although the number of licensed therapists is gradually increasing, its growth is overshadowed by the steeper incline of mental disorders.
Past and future treatment solutions
Between 1986 and 2005, the United States has allocated less of its spending for mental health, dropping from 8 to 6.4 percent. In terms of funding specific services, the U.S. has heavily increased the use of prescription drugs, moving up from 7 to 27 percent while limiting more attentive solutions like inpatient and residential care options. While a direct connection between these shifts and the increased prevalence of mental problems has not been fully explored, many critics believe the use of prescription drugs is too high and better, long-lasting solutions should be utilized instead.
In an interview with ABC News, Randall Hagar from the California Psychiatric Association lists some areas for improvement apart from funding, as the 2004 Mental Health Services Act has accrued more than $13 billion in the past decade without major results. Hagar said, “The neglected part is that we’ve lost 2,000 in-patient hospital beds for psychiatric patients in the last 15 years. We have a 45-year-old treatment law that needs to be updated that is really not serving people well.”
On the bright side, some progress is being made. Specifically, a new California law provides homeless people with free identification that allows the underserved demographic to access public schooling, shelters, food stamps and even mental health services if necessary. This governmental action follows a number of grassroot attempts by nonprofit organizations to help ease the disparity of mental health resources.
As it stands now, many California residents are still at-risk of developing psychological disorders. For those who need immediate support, Sovereign Health of California offers high quality and comprehensive addiction, dual diagnosis and mental health treatment programs for adults and adolescents. Our treatment programs specialize in addressing underlying mental health conditions and other behavioral health problems. Call (866) 819-0427 or live chat with a representative online.
Written by Lee Yates, Sovereign Health Group writer