Mental Health

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People with Low Incomes Say They Suffer Poorer Health

Uzuri Pease-Greene talks with two police officers in the public housing complex in San Francisco where she lives. (Talia Herman/NPR)

Uzuri Pease-Greene talks with two police officers in the public housing complex in San Francisco where she lives. (Talia Herman/NPR)

By Patti Neighmond, NPR

When you ask people what impacts health you’ll get a lot of different answers: Access to good health care and preventative services, personal behavior, exposure to germs or pollution and stress.

But if you dig a little deeper you’ll find a clear dividing line, and it boils down to one word: money.

“My health is deteriorating, and I know what the cause of it is, but I can’t fix it.”    

People whose household income is more than $75,000 a year have very different perceptions of what affects health than those whose household income is less than $25,000. This is one key finding in a poll conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health. One third of respondents who are low income say lack of money has a harmful effect on health.

This is the case for 29-year-old Anna Beer of Spokane, Wash. She lives with her husband in the basement of her father’s house. Beer got laid off from her job as a nanny last summer. Now she is attending college in the hope that she will get a better than minimum-wage job when she graduates. Beer’s husband earns $10 an hour working at a retail store. “This is probably the most poor we’ve been,” Beer says. Continue reading

When Health Care Is Far From Home

Richard Sandor, 65, of Hayfork, took the hour long bus ride to Mad River Clinic to pick up his medication for chronic pain. (Heidi de Marco/KHN).

Richard Sandor, 65, of Hayfork, took the hour-long bus ride to illad River Clinic to pick up his medication for chronic pain. (Heidi de Marco/KHN).

The biggest barrier to treatment for residents of a tiny town in the mountains of Northern California isn’t insurance coverage — it’s distance.

By Daniela Hernandez, Kaiser Health News

HAYFORK, Calif. — It’s Tuesday morning, half past eight and already hot, when the small bus pulls up to the community clinic. Most of the passengers are waiting in front — an old man with a cane, two mothers with four kids between them, packed lunches in hand.

Two more arrive. A gray-bearded man with a pirate bandana steps from the shelter of his Subaru. A sunken-cheeked woman rushes up on her bike.

“Woohoo! We have a full car!” the driver says brightly after they’ve all climbed aboard. The riders smile back, some with a hint of resignation. It’s time for the weekly trip to the clinic in Mad River, about 30 miles down a winding mountain road. The tight twists and turns are hard on the stomach, but even harder on the joints — especially if you have chronic Lyme disease, as more than a few of these riders do.

Jeff Clarke is one of them. He acquired Lyme long ago from deer ticks that dwell in the region’s sprawling forests. But today he’s going to ask about a lump that’s been growing in his left breast. It’s starting to hurt, and he’s worried. His fellow riders list their own ailments matter-of-factly: asthma, dental decay, diabetes, drug addiction, heart disease and much more. Continue reading

4-Year Contract Dispute Between Kaiser, NUHW Thaws; Union ‘Hopeful’

(Ted Eytan/Flickr)

(Ted Eytan/Flickr)

For more than four years, the National Union of Healthcare Workers, representing 2,600 Kaiser mental health clinicians in California, has been in a small war with the health care giant.

NUHW members have gone on strikes of varying lengths three times over what it says are lengthy delays in providing care to mental health patients.

In 2011, the union filed a 34-page complaint with the California Department of Managed Health Care alleging Kaiser’s mental health services were “sorely understaffed and frequently fail to provide timely and appropriate care.” Continue reading

Calif. Calls Kaiser Mental Health Services ‘Inadequate’ as Treatment Delays Persist

Kaiser Permanente’s medical center in Oakland. (Lisa Aliferis/KQED)

Kaiser Permanente’s medical center in Oakland. (Lisa Aliferis/KQED)

A teenager with major depression and thoughts of suicide is forced to wait 24 days for an initial appointment.

A sexual assault victim, diagnosed with PTSD and major depression, sends numerous emails requesting individual psychotherapy, only to have her psychiatrist suggest she should get outside help at her own expense because no weekly appointments are available. Total time between appointments: Five months.

Following up on a survey that resulted in a $4 million fine against the HMO in 2013.  

A patient deemed high-risk for domestic abuse doesn’t show up for appointments, but mental health staff do not attempt contact. The couples therapy called for in his treatment plan does not occur. Domestic violence resulting in severe injury ensues. The man then tries to make an appointment but can’t get one.

Continue reading

Mental Health ‘Warm Line’ Helps Prevent Crises With Good Listening

Daisy Matthias is a counselor at the San Francisco-based Mental Health Triage Warm Line. Most callers are struggling with anxiety, depression, loneliness, and stress. (Jeremy Raff /KQED)

Daisy Matthias is a counselor at the San Francisco-based Mental Health Triage Warm Line. Most callers are struggling with anxiety, depression, loneliness, and stress. (Jeremy Raff /KQED)

Editor’s note: a warm line is a place where people struggling with mental illness, but not in an acute state of crisis, can call and talk to a trained counselor as long as they need to. As part our community health series Vital Signs, we caught up with Daisy Matthias, a counselor at San Francisco’s new warm line, in between phone calls.

By Daisy Matthias

The majority of the people call about anxiety, depression, loneliness, or even stress.

We’ll be there for as long as you need us. We don’t have a time limit. And other warm lines sometimes will have a time limit of 20 minutes, 30 minutes.

Every counselor has a history of dealing with mental health. Continue reading

Kaiser Mental Health Workers Launch 7-Day Strike

Kaiser Permanente’s medical center in Oakland. (Lisa Aliferis/KQED)

Kaiser Permanente’s medical center in Oakland. (Lisa Aliferis/KQED)

By April Dembosky

Mental health clinicians at Kaiser are walking off the job Monday, commencing a week-long, statewide strike. Their main complaint: Kaiser isn’t hiring enough therapists and psychologists to see patients in a timely manner.

But the strike also comes after four years of contract negotiations between Kaiser and the National Union of Healthcare Workers have yielded few agreements.

“We’ve tried one and two day actions in the past. Kaiser is not paying attention to that,” says Clement Papazian, a social worker at Kaiser and a local union representative. “We feel like it’s the appropriate time to escalate these actions.”

Kaiser called the strike “unnecessary and counterproductive.”

John Nelson, Kaiser’s vice president of government relations, says the the hospital system is meeting its patients’ mental health needs, even after Kaiser has taken on thousands of new patients under the Affordable Care Act.

“Since 2011, we’ve grown membership by eight percent in California. We’ve increased the number of therapists in California who work at Kaiser Permanente by 25 percent,” Nelson said. “That’s quite an accomplishment.” Continue reading

San Diego Group Has Fun ‘Impact’ on Young Adults with Mental Illness

Ellen Frudakis (left) and Johanna Baker co-founded Impact Young Adults ten years ago. (Kenny Goldberg/KPBS)

Ellen Frudakis (left) and Johanna Baker co-founded Impact Young Adults 10 years ago. (Kenny Goldberg/KPBS)

By Kenny Goldberg, KPBS

The National Institute of Mental Health says about one in five young adults has a diagnosable mental illness.

It’s not uncommon for young people with mental health issues to withdraw from others and to isolate themselves. That can make their situation worse.

A group in San Diego has made it their mission to encourage young adults with mental illness to get out of their shell, make friends and have a good time.

The group is operated by young people. Continue reading

Counties Expand Mental Health Services with State Funds

Hope House, a residential treatment program in Martinez, helps people in a mental health crisis make the transition back to the community. (Elaine Korry/KQED)

Hope House, a residential treatment program in Martinez, helps people in a mental health crisis make the transition back to the community. (Elaine Korry/KQED)

By Elaine Korry

It’s lunchtime at Hope House, a new 16-bed residential facility in Martinez, east of San Francisco. People who live here are busy preparing lunch in what looks like a big country kitchen.

“We’ve designed it as much as possible to have a homelike atmosphere,” says program director Christopher Roach. “We want people to be thinking, this is a transition to the community.”

Many of the residents here have arrived directly from a hospital. Among them are young adults facing a psychotic break, chronically-ill homeless men or mothers battling mental illness and addiction. After an average two-weeks of intense counseling, Roach says they’ll leave with hope for recovery.

“What you’re able to accomplish in 14 days is huge if you know what you’re looking for,” he says. Continue reading

New State Funding Improves County Mental Health Services

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

By Elaine Korry

The Joslyn Center in Burbank is a place where older adults come for low-cost healthy meals and activities ranging from fitness and computer classes to music lessons.

But several times lately, the normally placid environment of the center has been disrupted. One client who uses the services was showing signs of mental illness. Renee Crawford coordinates social services at the Center.

“She gets very loud, very aggressive and very anxious,” Crawford said, in reference to the troubled client. “And then we have to go in and tell her, ‘Calm down, relax, you can’t be this loud,’ Then she gets very upset and very irate.”

The woman seemed to be suffering from paranoid delusions, and Crawford says the workers here aren’t trained to help her. Continue reading

Students Struggle to Access Mental Health Services on UC Campuses

Students at Sproul Plaza, UC Berkeley. (Henry Zbyszynski/Flickr)

Students at Sproul Plaza, UC Berkeley. In the last six years, the number of students seeking health at counseling centers has increased 37 percent across the UC system. (Henry Zbyszynski/Flickr)

Students throughout the University of California system are having trouble accessing mental health care, and health services directors are raising alarms that increased staffing and funding could be warranted to meet demand.

“The increased need for mental health services on our campuses is outstripping our ability to provide those services,” said Dr. John Stobo, senior vice president for health sciences and services for the University of California. “It is a major problem. It’s not only a problem for UC, this is a national issue.”

In the last six years, the number of students seeking help at university counseling centers has increased 37 percent, according to data presented at UC Regents board meeting on Thursday.

“This is real. Students are having difficulty accessing mental health services on campus,” said Dr. Gina Fleming, medical director for the UC Self-Insured Health Plans. “They’re waiting longer to get an appointment. They’re having fewer appointments within the course of therapy, and more are needing to be referred off campus.” Continue reading