Behavioral health refers to more than just mental health. It refers more generally to a person’s well-being: how a person’s feelings, thoughts, and behaviors are all connected. People often say that mental health is physical health and vice versa. Countless studies have shown that people suffering from depression, stress, and anxiety and other mental health conditions are at a higher risk of developing chronic disease, including diabetes, stroke, and heart disease. But studies have shown that only 40% of a person’s health is determined by genetic factors and healthcare. Employment, education, housing, and other social determinants of health determine 60% of a person’s well-being. I think it’s crucial for people to know that with the right support and treatment, people do get better and go on to live fulfilling lives. When policymakers make behavioral health a priority, they are showing a commitment to solving larger societal problems such as homelessness, inequality and unemployment.
I think there are three important steps California can take to increase access to behavioral health care. First, we need to be worried about the fact that we are facing a shortage of behavioral health workers that is only going to worsen as the incidence of mental illness continues to rise. A recent University of California San Francisco study shows that if current trends continue, California will have 50% fewer psychiatrists and a 28% fewer psychologists, marriage and family therapists, clinical counselors and social workers by 2028. We need to be making major investments today. These investments could come in the form of loan repayments, more money for residency programs, and more targeted training to ensure that we have a racially and ethnically diverse workforce. Second, I think it’s important that California invest in high quality research, data collection and analysis to help policymakers at both the state and federal level make informed decisions about what is working and what is not. Lastly, we’ve got to address the role that severe mental illness plays in our homelessness problem. It’s estimated that 26% of adults in shelters are struggling with a severe mental illness and more than 46% with a mental illness and some substance use disorder.
Although uninsured rates have fallen steeply, studies suggest that as many as 63% of people who need help, aren’t seeking it out. It’s a great thing that many more people have coverage today, but we’ve also got to think about ways to motivate people to want to seek treatment. In California, more than 8 million people experience some type of behavioral health condition. That’s about 1 in 6 Californians. People need to know that mental illness is common and treatable. According to the National Advisory Mental Health Council, the rates of recovery are impressive: 65-80% from major depression, 60% from schizophrenia and 70% from addiction. People should know that with the right treatment, it’s possible for everyone to live healthy and productive lives.
1 in 6 people today are affected by a mental health or substance use disorder. Behavioral health is not a niche issue, but a public health priority. Congress needs to appropriate funding commensurate with the scope and scale of the problem. I’m pleased that Congress authorized the Community Service Block Grant at $725 million, which is an increase of $10 million from last year. We also gave about $4 billion dollars overall for opioid prevention and treatment and other mental health initiatives, which is almost $3 billion dollar increase from last year. I will make sure that next year we do even better.