Santa Rosa Press Democrat Examines Mental Health Services for Youths in Sonoma County
The Santa Rosa Press Democrat last weekend featured two articles examining mental health services for children and adolescents in Sonoma County. In the first article, the Press Democrat examines the county and statewide system for treating mentally ill youths, which is being "pushed to the limit at a time when more kids and their families are seeking help for mental illness." According to the Press Democrat, the number of mentally ill youths cared for through Sonoma County Mental Health Youth and Family Services has grown from approximately 400 in 1995 to 1,200 last year, while Kaiser Permanente in Santa Rosa now treats on average 17 children with mental illnesses per week, up from eight per week prior to the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. According to mental health professionals, the increase in youths with mental illnesses might be attributed to population growth, greater awareness of mental illness, "sicker kids" or better access to care. However, the Press Democrat reports that "[s]imply finding a therapist to help ... can be frustrating." According to the Press Democrat, Northern California has a "significant" shortage of psychologists, psychiatrists and other qualified mental health staff. Furthermore, mental health advocates say that the insurance industry, with its "widespread limits" on treatment of mental illness, makes it harder for mentally ill youths and their families to find care (Moore, Santa Rosa Press Democrat, 4/14).
In the second article, the Press Democrat profiles the family of Matt Ruggles, a 17-year-old suffering from depression, and their frustrating search to find psychiatric care in a "confusing web of health care services." After calling 12 therapists, "only to find waiting lists longer than a month," the family eventually sought emergency help. Although Ruggles spent three days at a psychiatric treatment facility, he was sent home "feeling as if he hadn't made any progress." Ruggles' parents eventually paid out of pocket for him to meet with a therapist once a week (Moore, Santa Rosa Press Democrat, 4/14).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.