Why California Needs Behavioral Health Workers

The Affordable Care Act (often referred to as “Obamacare”) put mental health care on par with physical health, at least as far as health insurance goes.  The reality facing many people in California, however, is that insurance does not automatically mean providers are available. A recent report released by the Healthforce Center at the University of California San Francisco reported the following statistics:

  • Approximately one in six adults in California were diagnosed with a mental illness in 2014, while one in twenty-five had a serious mental illness
  • One in fourteen children in California had a serious emotional disturbance
  • Many Californians also suffer from substance abuse disorders
  • From 2013 – 2015, California had 11 drug overdose deaths per 100,000 persons overall and some rural counties had rates that were more than double the statewide average

The report analyzes and projects future needs related to California’s behavioral health workforce. To increase the likelihood that better coverage for behavioral health services will yield better access to treatment, the report suggests that California needs an adequate supply of behavioral health workers who are distributed equitably across the state and who reflect the demographic characteristics of the state’s population. These workers must also possess the skills and credentials necessary to deliver the type of behavioral health care (e.g., prescribing/medication management, counseling) that people need and participate in public and private health insurance plans.

Some of the key report findings are summarized below:

  • Ratios of behavioral health professionals to population vary substantially across California’s regions—the lowest ratios persist in the Inland Empire and San Joaquin Valley.
  • African-Americans and Latinos are underrepresented among psychiatrists and psychologists relative to California’s population; and Latinos are also underrepresented among counselors and clinical social workers.
  • Forty-five percent of psychiatrists and 37% of psychologists are over age 60 years and are likely to retire or reduce their work hours within the next decade.
  • Wages vary widely across behavioral health occupations, as do the settings in which people are employed. Psychiatrists have the highest mean annual earnings and substance abuse and addiction counselors have the lowest mean annual earnings.
  • California’s behavioral health trainees are not distributed evenly across the state. There are no residency programs for psychiatrists and no educational programs for psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners or psychologists north of Sacramento. There are no doctoral programs in psychology in the Central Coast and San Joaquin Valley regions.
  • If current trends continue, California will have 41 percent fewer psychiatrists than needed and 11 percent fewer psychologists, licensed marriage and family therapists, licensed professional clinical counselors and licensed clinical social workers than needed by 2028. Additional behavioral health professionals will be needed to care for Californians with unmet needs for behavioral health services.

To view a complete copy of the report released by the Healthforce Center at the University of California San Francisco, click on this link –


At Kantor & Kantor we have a team of experienced attorneys who are all dedicated to obtaining the best possible result for our clients. If you or someone you know are being denied mental health benefits by your insurer, please call Kantor & Kantor for a free consultation at 888-569-6013. We understand and we can help!



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