Two new assessments released Wednesday gave an overview of mental health in California – from suicide rates to access to care to the supply of mental health professionals.
While there are bright spots, they provide a pretty sobering view. The first, Mental Health Care in California: Painting A Picture, details that nearly 1 in 6 adults in the state has "a mental health need" and 1 in 20 has a serious mental illness. The rate in children is even higher: 1 in 13.
And too many people are not getting treatment. According to the analysis, half of adults and two-thirds of adolescents with a mental heath illness do not receive treatment. A big contributing factor is likely the state of the mental health workforce in California which is quantified in both the first report and the second. Both analyses are from the California HealthCare Foundation. They describe a varied and fragmented delivery and financing system in the state.
Steve Schilling knows the issue all too well. He's CEO of Clinica Sierra Vista which has multiple health centers in southern San Joaquin Valley. He said "scarcity" would be a better word than "variation" when it came to describing mental health services. In the CHCF analysis, the San Joaquin Valley fell well below a state average for all mental health professions. The Inland Empire also fared poorly. "I really think we have a non-system of behavioral health in California," he said.
California has a layer-upon-layer system of mental health funding that can vary dramatically according to what county you live in, or where you seek care. This year's state budget brought a ray of good news with a boost of $140 million in funds. But county funding has long been determined by an arcane formula. CHCF's researchers noted that "(w)hile no current analysis comparing county's total per capital mental health program revenues and expenditures is publicly available, it is widely assumed that the amounts vary greatly between counties."