A Place of Peace and Rest

Los Angeles County is currently facing a potential meltdown of its entire health services network, both medical and psychiatric, as a $600 million deficit threatens to close down most inpatient hospital beds and numerous county clinics. For years, mental health care budgets have been among the first to be slashed, and part of the proposed solution to the current crisis asks county psychiatric services to cut spending by 20 percent or lose all funding.

But, as psychiatric social worker Marrie Swanson explains, the County Mental Health Centers (CMHCs) are already down to bare bones services. "CMHCs aren't set up for therapy, but for medications," she says. "They won't see dysthymia or adjustment disorder [two forms of depression] as it is." This trend is troubling, given the significantly higher success rates of patients treated with talk therapy along with medications.

Private insurers also vary widely in which mental health services they will cover. Premiums and co-pays are increasing, and people who are already hesitant about pursuing mental health care may forego it entirely. As insurance rates are back on a double-digit rise this year, the number of people who have private insurance at all will inevitably decline, landing them in the broken public system. This situation is not unique to Los Angeles—the injustices of our health care system exist nationwide.

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Sojourners Magazine November-December 2002
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