By Assemblyman Brian Maienschein
Last month, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law novel legislation that I authored to help ensure primary care providers in California are trained to recognize the symptoms of common psychiatric conditions. The measure, which I worked on in partnership with the Steinberg Institute, is part of a broader effort to promote early intervention and prevention for people living with a mental illness.
What problem were we looking to solve with Assembly Bill 1340? Multiple recent reports document the alarming disconnect between supply and demand for psychiatric services in the United States. According to the National Council for Behavioral Health, the ratio of psychiatrists to population declined by 10 percent between 2003-2013. Nearly half the nation’s psychiatrists are private practitioners who operate on a cash-only basis, meaning most families can’t access their services. Another recent study found 55 percent of counties in the continental U.S. have no psychiatrists, and 77 percent have a severe shortage.
And the shortfall is expected to grow: In its report this year on the psychiatric shortage, the National Council cited research projecting demand for psychiatry will outstrip services by 25 percent in 2025.