Turning great ideas into healthier communities


Health Needs of California Women Reporting Serious Psychological Distress and Chronic Health Conditions

2014 | Download

The provision of mental health services has historically lagged behind the provision of physical health services. To address the gap, California passed a mental health parity law in 1999 (AB 88) mandating that mental health treatment be equally covered by private health insurance providers in the state. In 2004, California passed the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA), designed to expand countyoperated mental health services. Full implementation of the landmark Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) in January 2014 should further bridge the gap by eliminating other barriers to obtaining needed care.

Expanding the scope of an earlier brief, this policy brief highlights the mental health status of adult women in California, with a focus on women with chronic physical health conditions. This is an important topic because of the service needs generated by having both psychological and physical conditions.4 The brief addresses whether women reporting serious psychological distress (SPD) are more likely to have chronic health conditions compared to women without SPD. This brief also examines whether having co-existing emotional and physical conditions impacts the need for, access to, and utilization of mental health treatment. Initially, we examine the rates of SPD among adult women by demographic characteristics and chronic health conditions. We then focus on the population of women with SPD and co-occurring health conditions, assessing their need for mental health treatment; whether they obtain help; and what barriers, if any, prevent them from getting the help they need. Data for this policy brief are drawn from the 2011–2012 California Health Interview Survey (CHIS 2011–12).


Roberta Wyn, Elaine Zahnd, Sue Holtby