Improving Access to Mental Health Care

A couciling session with a woman therapist taking notes and listening to a woman patient

As an integrated, non-profit health care system and the largest mental health care provider in California, Kaiser Permanente is well-positioned to meet the needs of the growing population of Americans in need of mental health care.

One of our California regulators, the California Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC), conducted a survey of our mental health care in 2012. The DMHC’s survey did not identify problems with the quality of the mental health care provided to our members, or with the ability of our members to obtain urgent or emergency mental health care. However, the DMHC did identify some areas where our initial non-urgent appointment wait times and data tracking needed improvement. We took those findings seriously and have taken actions to correct the findings. In a follow-up survey released this past February, the DMHC acknowledged that we have made significant improvements. The follow-up survey:

  • Highlights our extensive measures to track, report and monitor appointment wait times.
  • Found our teams “are carefully and closely monitoring access issues, and reacting quickly in situations where issues arise within a medical clinic or department.”
  • Confirms that we have created and put into place a robust reporting measure that appropriately measures compliance with wait time standards. We are proud to report no other health plan in California has anything like this in place.
  • Documents the steps we have taken to increase access to individual therapy appointments, including hiring hundreds of additional providers, increasing clinic hours, and beginning video and telephone appointments.

We acknowledge there are still some areas where we can do better. We are continuing to address these challenges, by making caregivers available where they are needed, continuing to recruit more staff, partnering more with community providers, and seeking flexible and innovative solutions.