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The Valley Is Short On Behavioral Health Providers – And That’s Likely To Worsen

Feb 16, 2018

In California, mental illness afflicts as many as 1 in 6 adults and 1 in 14 children. And yet, according to a new study, the state’s workforce of behavioral health providers could be in jeopardy.

By the year 2028, California could have 41 percent fewer psychiatrists than it needs, and 11 percent fewer other providers like psychologists and licensed clinical social workers.

The report, by the UC San Francisco Healthforce Center, shows the distribution of these providers is already uneven. In 2016, the San Joaquin Valley had half the psychiatrists per capita than the statewide average. 

"I think it’s fair to say that in the San Joaquin Valley, supplies are so low that it’s affecting people’s access," says Janet Coffman, lead author of the study and a professor of health policy at UCSF.

She says medical training opportunities are also unevenly distributed, and Latino and black providers are underrepresented - all barriers to care.

"When people with these conditions can’t get timely access to treatment, they tend to end up in the emergency department," she says, "and our emergency departments are already struggling."

The study offers many recommendations for increasing the behavioral health workforce, including expanding clinical training opportunities in underserved areas.