With about 7.2 million people, California’s Central Valley is the fastest growing region in the state. Over the past 40 years, the area’s population has doubled.
It’s also one of those hardest hit by the pandemic, with its counties suffering some of California’s highest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases.
And, as of April, the Central Valley was recording high unemployment.
However, for this area’s Kaiser Permanente members suffering the psychological effects of the devastating past year, there is help in the form of new or expanded behavioral health facilities in 4 cities.
“Our footprint continues to grow,” said Amanjot Deol, MD, chief of Psychiatry at the Kaiser Permanente Modesto Medical Offices. “There is a recognition by the organization that there was an increased demand for services across the board to meet the behavioral health needs of our growing membership.”
Lathrop, Stockton, Modesto, Tracy
The additional square footage gives the Central Valley service area “room to grow,” said James Kempf, EDD, psychologist and area director of Behavioral Health. In addition to space, the service area is adding mental health professionals to meet the needs of members.
The most recent build is the Lathrop Mental Health and Wellness Center, which opened for care on June 30. The 26,000-square-foot facility boasts 36 provider rooms and 14 group therapy rooms. The mental health and addiction medicine departments are moving from Manteca to the facility.
Additionally, child, adolescent, and adult mental health services at the new center will make it the first facility in Kaiser Permanente’s Central Valley service area to offer addiction medicine and mental health services under one roof.
Also this year, the Stockton Behavioral Health Department completed a remodel and expansion in April that yielded 14 more provider offices and 2 group therapy rooms.
Last November, the Modesto-Enterprise Mental Health and Wellness Center opened its 27,000-square-foot facility across from the medical office with 52 provider offices and 7 group therapy rooms. In late 2019, an expanded and remodeled Behavioral Health Department at the Tracy Medical Offices resulted in 9 new provider offices.
Help during the pandemic … and beyond
“Shelter in place orders due to COVID-19 at first resulted in decreased demand for mental health and addiction medicine services,” Kempf said of the Central Valley’s behavioral health services. “To respond to our members’ needs, we rapidly pivoted to telehealth and video visits in order to meet them where they wanted to be met. This increased our members’ willingness to seek help, while reducing stigma as well.”
Today, he said clinicians are seeing first-time patients with mental health concerns they never experienced prior to the pandemic.
Going forward, with both in-person and virtual options, members have more choices about how to receive their care.
“The good news is that they can probably get better quicker as we teach them skills. The new technology in our facilities means we can do more state-of-the-art group therapy, which is what our patients are expecting from us.”
“Our patients come from every walk of life, from those who are insured through their employers to those who lost their jobs and are on Covered California or Medi-Cal now,” added Dr. Deol. “The beauty of the new spaces is that we can develop more programming to meet the needs of all of our patients.”
A programwide investment
The Central Valley builds and expansions are part of an investment into mental health care that Kaiser Permanente has made across its numerous U.S. markets.
Additionally, the organization has continued to hire mental health providers, expand its hours of care as well as virtual appointments, and contract with external networks in order to deliver timely care.
“All of us continue to learn more about the long-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our society,” said Maria Koshy, MD, director of Regional Mental Health Administration and chair of chiefs of Psychiatry. “Emerging evidence indicates that there will continue to be an increase in demand for mental health services. Kaiser Permanente’s ongoing investment in capital projects and in the expansion of our workforce is a reflection of our renewed commitment to meeting the growing mental health needs of our patients in the wake of the pandemic.”
The Central Valley behavioral health locations: Lathrop, 17000 South Harlan Road; Stockton, 7373 West Lane; Modesto, 4700 Enterprise Way; Tracy, 2185 W Grant Line Road.