How COVID-19 Exposed Discrepancies in Health Services

By December 5, 2021Mental Health
doctor with protective suit looking outside

The highs and lows of mental health affect everyone. No one is left untouched, from the person going through a mental health crisis to their friends, family, or co-workers. California has in place a health-tracking system that identifies the use of mental health services, services provided, unmet needs, and the extent to which a person can function. To understand how Coronavirus (COVID-19) has impacted the residents of California, first examine pre-COVID-19 data from the California Health Interview Survey (CHIS) with current data. After reviewing the data, you can address ways to help those with a mental health or substance use disorder.

Formulating Policies and Programs

Without population surveys gauging the mental health and well-being of the residents of California, public health officials wouldn’t know how to implement meaningful mental health programs. Surveys are how public health officials and mental health providers formulate policy initiatives and programs. You can also use community surveys to help us gauge the response to policies and the evolving needs of the people.

One of the most effective ways to create effective policies is to involve the community. Active participation of those affected by mental health initiatives will guide people to understand the unmet needs or accessibility of mental health or substance addiction services. For this reason, California’s unique way of gathering information is integral to creating comprehensive mental health and substance addiction policies and programs. The CHIS frequently examines samples of the state’s population. To include all communities, the CHIS provides the assessment in multiple languages.

Pre-COVID-19 Results

The CHIS tracked state, regional, and local communities. The goal was to discover the use and accessibility of mental health or substance addiction programs. After tabulating the results, researchers found:

The clinical significance of mental health issues showed approximately 8% of the survey group met the threshold for severe psychological distress.
12% of those surveyed reported they sought help for a mental health or substance use problem.
9% of the respondents said they didn’t seek help for their perceived mental health or substance use disorder (SUD).
Other respondents reported their mental health or SUD impacted their work, or they attempted suicide.

The report discovered a difference in the mental well-being of women and men. Compared to men, women had a higher rate of psychological distress and were more likely to seek help through mental health or SUD services. However, despite these rates, women also reported higher rates for unmet needs.

Race and ethnic differences showed the rate of psychological distress was unquestionably higher amongst black and Latinos when compared to whites. However, the rate of psychological distress among Asians was lower than their white counterparts. Also, Latinos and Asians sought care from a primary care provider or substance use professionals at a lower rate than whites. Latinos and Asians also had a higher rate of unmet needs than whites.

The significance of these statistics carries over to how COVID-19 regulations impacted Californians’ mental health.

The Effects of COVID-19

The psychological and physical impact of COVID-19 continues to affect Californians’ well-being. The uncertainty over regulations and when the threat of COVID-19 will lessen or disappear can put some in a constant state of anxiety, depression, or stress. While there is little research into how pandemics or epidemics affect the mental health of people, The Mental Health Consequences of COVID-19 and Physical Distancing does show a connection between widespread disasters and cognitive or behavioral issues.

As the pandemic spread, an increase in the rate of people reporting symptoms of depression and anxiety occurred. The National Center for Health Statistics and the US Census Bureau found the rate of reported symptoms of anxiety and depression tripled in the early months of COVID-19. According to California Health Care Foundation (CHCF), the impact on Black, Indigenous, and People of Color’s mental health was more significant than other populations. CHCF’s findings discussed how systematic racial injustices and health inequities determine the resulting mental and behavioral health care crisis.

Ways to Address the Needs of Californians

COVID-19 created better awareness of the discrepancies in health care access among California’s population. The need to address and integrate mental health and substance use programs into insurance programs is vital. However, access to telehealth services should remain. Luckily, the services provided by mental health professionals are suited to remote sessions. As mental health and substance, addiction treatment providers increase their in-person and telehealth options, opportunities to decrease unmet needs are a realistic goal.

As a therapist, you can also conduct surveys asking your clients how to better meet their needs. If you want to expand the survey, you can include members of the community. When you involve clients and the community in building mental health or SUD programs, you can decrease unmet needs.
Another helpful addition to your practice is providing culturally competent and evidence-based information.
You can reach and meet the needs of those who have significant unmet needs by including the community and clients in creating accessible mental health and substance addiction programs.

COVID-19 continues to have a significant impact on Californians’ mental health. When comparing pre-COVID-19 and current substance use and mental health statistics and surveys, one can see a drastic increase in depression, anxiety, stress, or other symptoms. To help address the needs of the community you live in and provide services, you can include the population in creating programs to meet their needs. Access to safe, culturally competent, and affordable health care is essential. While you strive to provide the best care to your clients, you can also seek programs like substance addiction treatment. Alta Centers provides evidence-based, culturally competent programs that address the unique needs of each client. In addition, our detoxification and inpatient rehabilitation programs educate and teach healthy coping skills that will address life after substance addiction treatment. Alta Centers, located in the Hollywood Hills, is close to the heart of Los Angeles. To learn more, call (888) 202-2583.