A recent report on the condition of mental health services in the United States shows a rift between the number of people who have mental health needs and the amount of access to crucial services. A startling amount of what the report refers to as “disparity” can be found in none other than the Great State of California. Though the report doesn’t include data from active duty personnel, those who are currently in a prison or hospital, or the homeless, it is a solid first step in addressing what many view as a severely overlooked aspect of healthcare.

The data, compiled from all fifty states and the District of Columbia, is available in a report released by Mental Health America (MHA), titled “Parity or Disparity: The State of Mental Health in America.” The first annual report of its kind, “Parity or Disparity” hopes to give readers a brief yet informative outline of mental health in the U.S. It also lays the groundwork for future studies to see the effects of legislation like the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Though nationally mental health care needs an overhaul, California is in a league of its own among youth with mental health needs, and has some serious catching up to do.

In an overall ranking comparing the frequency of mental health issues to access to related services, California is fairly average at 29th out of 51. When only looking at mental health among youth, however, the Golden State comes in at a horrendous 45th place. The only reason the state comes in at 29th overall is because of its slightly better-than-average score for adults.

As the country’s most populated state, it has one of the highest instances of substance abuse among youth, with about 237,000 children. California also has over 678,000 children with “emotional, behavioral and developmental issues” (EBDs). Of those kids, about 80% were consistently insured. That might sound decent, but when almost 99% of Iowan children with EBDs are reliably covered, 80% is a scandal in comparison. Even more sobering is the fact that in this category the Golden State is at the bottom of the barrel at 49th out of 51.

Fortunately, the report does more than highlight disparity, is also provides guidance on how to close the gaps between need and access. MHA concludes its findings with some “key findings” and proposals. The U.S. could, for example, prioritize expanding Medicaid so that those who need services the most can prevent issues rather than wait until absolutely necessary to get help. One thing the report is clear about is that access to mental health services depends greatly on where one lives. Hopefully one’s address won’t be as much of a deciding factor moving forward.

To view the full report, please go to: www.mentalhealthamerica.net

(feautred image courtesy of Will Deutsch, Flickr, under Creative Commons License)