May 18, 2022

Our response to DMHC survey of behavioral health services

We appreciate the Department of Managed Health Care’s interest and accountability in understanding how we deliver care to meet our members’ mental health and substance abuse needs.

The need for mental health care in America has never been greater and at the same time harder to deliver. The national shortage of mental health clinicians was a crisis before the pandemic, and has further strained an already stressed mental health care system and its limited number of caregivers. Across the United States, mental health experts have reported the demand for mental health services has increased as much as 30% since the beginning of the pandemic.

We have been notified by the California Department of Managed Health Care that it will be undertaking a new survey of Kaiser Permanente’s mental health and substance use disorder care services, in response to concerns it has received.

We appreciate the DMHC’s interest and accountability in understanding how we are working to deliver clinically appropriate care to those who rely on us for their mental health services. We welcome the opportunity to review our performance and collaborate on new areas for improvement. We believe that a thoughtful, impartial review can help us and other health plans in California address challenges we are all facing. We know that we cannot solve the challenges of the national mental health crisis on our own and look forward to collaboration from across the mental health community.

Kaiser Permanente has been on a multiyear journey to improve the way mental health care is delivered in America today, and to make it more evidence-based with better outcomes. We’ve also been focused on innovating and developing new ways to meet our members’ needs including taking action to address the national shortage of caregivers; significantly expanding our ability to provide virtual care to patients who want it; embedding mental health professionals in primary care clinics, pediatric settings, and emergency departments; and continuing to expand our collaborative care programs that have proven to effectively treat patients who have anxiety and depression diagnoses.

Despite all these efforts, we continue to face the same challenges others do. We haven’t solved the problems facing mental health care, and the pandemic has set us all back. We also know the pandemic has strained our mental health clinicians. We have the greatest respect and gratitude for them, and we are dedicated to supporting their important work.

We have informed the DMHC that we welcome the department’s new survey of our mental health care services. We look forward to working collaboratively to identify ways to improve, so we can better help our members with all of their mental health needs.