Counties Struggle To Prepare for Influx of Mental Health Patients
Mental health care providers in the Central Valley region of California are struggling to prepare for an influx of patients following implementation of the Affordable Care Act, HealthyCal reports.
In California, more than one million residents have a mental health condition, which is more than in any other state.
When the ACA if fully implemented next year, more state residents will be able to seek treatment for such conditions under an expansion of Medi-Cal, California's Medicaid program.
Demand for services is difficult to predict because of the stigma attached to mental illness. However, about 120,000 residents of Stanislaus, San Joaquin and Merced counties will be eligible for some type of government-subsidized health plan next year, according to Families USA data. Such residents could access mental health services if they require it, HealthyCal reports.
Some state and county health officials still are in the planning stages of expanding their mental health services,Â even thoughÂ patients will have access to such treatments in less than nine months.
Manuel Jimenez -- director of Merced County's Mental Health and Alcohol and Drug Services -- said he believes that the ACA will expand Medi-Cal to about 30,000 more people in Merced County. He said that of those individuals, about 10% could quality for mental health or substance use disorder treatments, adding, "That's conservatively speaking."
However, his department has not yet begun expanding mental health services. Jimenez said that counties are awaiting more information from the state about how to handle the impending caseload.
Joyce Plis of National Alliance on Mental Illness in Stanislaus County said that she believes the ACA could prompt many new patients to visit existing mental health care facilities in the area, some of which already are overburdened.Anthony Cava -- a spokesperson for the state Department of Health Care Services -- said that Gov. Jerry Brown (D) and the Legislature still have to determine if California will adopt a state- or county-based approach to dealing with the increase in patients seeking mental health services (Underwood, HealthyCal, 5/16). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.