California Communities Mental Health Services Survey
California consistently ranks as the most diverse state in the country. However, a history of disparities and discrimination in mental health services based on race, ethnicity, culture, gender, age and sexual orientation have been a prevalent reality throughout the state. The first step to eliminating these disparities is understanding the attitudes and experiences that prevent populations from accessing this care. The California Communities Mental Health Services Survey (CCMHSS) queried more than 4,000 respondents from a representative sample of Californians including oversamples of five priority populations: Latinos, African Americans, Asian Americans, American Indians and Alaskan Natives, and LGBTQ+. The survey was conducted in Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Tagalog, and English.
NORC conducted CCMHSS for the California Reducing Disparities Project (CRDP) — an initiative of the California Department of Public Health’s Office of Health Equity in partnership with the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network. The California Mental Health Services Act provided funding. The findings will guide policy, advocacy, social activism and promotion, as well as support the education and outreach among partners with data to track population-level opinions over time.
The survey asked about the factors affecting barriers to quality mental health services including stigma related to mental illness and practical or structural obstacles to finding care. Other areas of inquiry included attitudes and beliefs about mental health services and prevention, perceived support from others when experiencing mental health challenges and information/help-seeking behaviors.
Findings from the survey focus on perceived access to services among the CRDP priority populations, but also important social factors that need to be addressed to increase the likelihood for help-seeking. The social factors of shame, stigma and discrimination are important to address as part of any efforts to improve access to care. These social factors are included as some of the top reasons that Californians and the CRDP priority populations do not seek mental health care when they need it. Future survey phases will focus on improving services for all groups and recommending policy-level changes for long-term transformation.