Kaiser Permanente issued the following statement from Greg A. Adams, chair and chief executive officer of Kaiser Permanente, as part of the announcement of a settlement agreement with the Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) over improvements to behavioral health care within Kaiser Permanente and across the state:
California and the nation have seen an unprecedented rise in demand for mental health care services over the past 3 years, largely driven by the global pandemic and its aftermath. Kaiser Permanente saw a 33% increase in need during the pandemic and have seen 20% more people come in for care in 2023 than at this point last year. An ongoing shortage of qualified mental health professionals, clinician burnout and turnover, even a 10-week strike last year by 2,000 mental health clinicians in California, have all contributed to make it very difficult to meet this growing need for care.
We at Kaiser Permanente, like every other health care organization, are coming back from the deep disruption and ongoing effects of the pandemic. The timing of the DMHC’s nonroutine survey corresponded with the staffing shortages and strike, the high demand for care, and the pandemic’s lingering effects, yet it provides an opportunity for Kaiser Permanente and all health plans to step up in a new way, to ensure that we are meeting the mental health care needs of our communities.
Kaiser Permanente believes an individual’s physical health, mental health, and social health are connected and essential to their total health. We also believe in the power of our integrated system and the expertise of our physicians and therapists to deliver excellent mental health care as an equal and essential part of a person’s overall health care.
Over the past 3 years, we have recognized the need to expand mental health care. We have increased our staffing and facilities to help meet the growing need. Since 2020, we have invested an additional $1.1 billion to provide mental health treatment for our members. We have hired nearly 600 additional therapists and expanded our networks to include thousands of community therapists. We have invested an additional $195 million in new clinical facilities that include 329 mental health provider offices. Even so, during the period of the DMHC survey we fell short of our members' expectations and our own expectations.
Our focus on health outcomes, evidence-based care, and research, builds on our integrated model and guides our continuous improvement. While we have made many enhancements to our mental health care delivery system, there is still work to be done to ensure our interventions and therapies are aligned with our members' expectations and to ensure we achieve the best patient outcomes. We accept this opportunity to bring our evidence-based care and new innovative programs forward to the rest of the state.
Our agreement with the DMHC takes full accountability for our performance during the survey period including our shortcomings, acknowledges our work to improve mental health care, and ensures that our ongoing investments not only help the members of Kaiser Permanente but also build a stronger mental health foundation in the communities we serve.
We are committed to transforming the quality and outcomes for patients receiving mental health care in California. In concert with the state, and as part of the $150 million investment over the next 5 years, we will help develop, build, and expand evidence-based treatment and care for behavioral health conditions. Examples of this work will include programs designed to address the dramatically rising mental health needs of youth and teens, digital wellness offerings to provide educational and emotional support for mental wellness and substance abuse, partnerships with schools and universities to address the mental health needs of their students and communities, workforce development programs to grow and train a new group of mental health professionals, and initiatives to enhance the integration of mental health care into primary and specialty care.
We are proud to work together with our Permanente Medical Groups and our network clinicians to deliver high-quality care to our members. Every day more than 13,000 people come in for mental health care across our system. We acknowledge and support our clinicians, therapists, and all who are committed to delivering evidence-based mental health care. As we move forward, we are committed to working together to meet the needs of our members and communities, and to meet the new challenges in our society around mental health.