Access to Mental Health Services Varies Across State, Survey Finds
Alameda and San Francisco counties have a significantly higher proportion of residents who delay or experience difficulty in receiving mental health treatment than other California counties, according to a study released Wednesday, the Oakland Tribune reports.
Researchers from the University of California-Berkeley used a telephone questionnaire developed by the Center for Health Policy Research at the University of California-Los Angeles to survey about 55,400 California adults about their level of happiness, work limitations because of emotional problems, anxiety, level of nervousness, lack of energy, binge drinking and perceived need for mental health care.
Researchers adjusted the data for socio-economic and demographic factors. However, the survey did not include homeless residents, which likely would generate "greater mental health concerns" in Alameda and San Francisco counties, the report states.
According to the Tribune, researchers used Los Angeles County "as a baseline because it is in the middle of most mental health yardsticks used in the survey."
The study also found that:
- Larger urban areas -- such as San Diego, Sacramento and Orange counties -- received the highest ratings for access to mental health services in the state;
- San Mateo County ranked among the lowest for the number of reported incidents of emergency department care for mental health reasons;
- Santa Cruz and San Francisco counties reported higher-than-average rates of binge drinking; and
- Sacramento County had the lowest mental health spending per capita at $16, while Alameda County spent $90 per capita. The state average was $66 per capita.
According to the Tribune, the report "is the first in the state to look at county residents' overall wellbeing." The report's authors said they hope county officials will consider the report when allocating funds raised by Proposition 63, an initiative approved on the November 2004 statewide ballot that aims to fund mental health services by imposing a tax on state residents who earn more than $1 million annually.
Richard Scheffler, co-author of the report and director of the Petris Center on Health Care Markets and Consumer Welfare, said he was unsure why Alameda County ranked among the lowest in the state for access to mental health services. He added, "Perhaps it's the way they organize their mental health care or the acuity and diversity of the population. I think the timing is good because now there is funding to improve the system."
Neal Adams, director of special projects for the California Institute of Mental Health and one of the report's external reviewers, said, "County-by-county comparisons are always difficult because California is a large and very diverse state" (Vesely, Oakland Tribune, 1/21).