Where are the mental health providers?

One big reason people can’t get care: California doesn’t have enough mental health providers. This can lead to long wait times, or long travel distances, for people trying to get treatment.

Depending on where you live, there might be a lot of mental health professionals—or virtually none. Such shortages are especially hard on people living in rural areas, those insured by Medi-Cal, and children and adolescents.

The Bay Area has more than 70 psychologists per 100,000 people; the San Joaquin Valley has less than 16.

But even in areas that have a lot of providers, many refuse to accept insurance. A study in The Journal of The American Medical Association reported that only 55 percent of psychiatrists accept insurance—compared to an average for all health care professionals of 89 percent.

The problem is expected to get worse as the mental health workforce ages. Of special concern: Close to half of psychiatrists and more than a third of psychologists in the state are older than 60, and many will retire or reduce their hours in coming years.