Exploring Low-Income Californians' Needs and Preferences for Behavioral Health Care
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Author: Langer Research Associates
Publisher: Blue Shield of California Foundation
We've long known that low-income Californians who struggle with behavioral health issues often don't receive the help they need. This gap in care is largely due to cost, insufficient insurance coverage, social stigma, and lack of information on where to obtain services.
Coupled with this unmet need is rising demand. As a result of new and extended benefits under Medi-Cal, hundreds of thousands of low-income residents will seek behavioral health support or substance abuse counseling for the first time.
Recognizing the challenges ahead, Blue Shield of California Foundation commissioned new research to help guide the conversation on behavioral healthcare and patient engagement in California's safety net. The findings are outlined in the report Needs and Preferences for Behavioral Health Care Among Low-Income Californians. Building upon a body of research that began in 2011, this report reinforces the need to connect and simplify the systems that serve our state's most vulnerable patients.
Among its key findings:
A broad gap exists between need and treatment: Among low-income Californians who have wanted to discuss behavioral health issues with a provider in the past year, only half have done so.
Patients' interest in receiving behavioral health services at their primary care facility far exceeds facilities' capacity: Three-quarters of patients say it's extremely or very important to have access to a counselor at their place of care, but only about half say that one is actually available.
Behavioral health is a core element of patient-centered care. Patients who have behavioral health services available at their primary care facility are much more likely to have strong relationships and a sense of connectedness with their providers, which ultimately translates to enhanced patient engagement, satisfaction, and loyalty.
Ensuring access to behavioral health services when and where patients need them is critical to achieving the type of whole-person care that our safety net should strive for. While significant impediments - including cultural and language barriers - remain, the good news is that none of them are insurmountable.
Concerted and collective efforts to integrate behavioral healthcare and address remaining barriers will yield clear benefits for patients and care facilities alike.
With new and extended benefits under Medi-Cal, more low-income patients are seeking behavioral health and substance abuse services. Ensuring that these services are available when and where patients need them will be a challenge, but is also critical to achieving the type of whole-person care our safety net should strive for. This report reinforces the need to connect and simplify the systems that serve our stateâ€™s most vulnerable patients and show us that while significant impediments - including cultural and language barriers - remain, none of them are insurmountable.