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Expanding mental health care services in California

Kaiser Permanente addresses growing need for mental health care with a $700 million facilities investment across California.


Kaiser Permanente is scheduled to open this month its first inpatient combined medical-psychiatric unit at the Fremont Medical Center, part of a major and much-needed community expansion of mental health and wellness care in southern Alameda County.

In addition to the 18-bed hospital medical-psychiatric unit, Kaiser Permanente is also opening 2 outpatient mental health and wellness centers this fall — 1 in Fremont, and 1 in San Leandro — part of a 7-year $700 million investment in mental health facilities to accommodate growth and improve geographic access. The 3 facilities represent an over $80 million investment to expand mental health care in southern Alameda County.

This is Kaiser Permanente’s first inpatient psychiatric unit in Northern California licensed to care for patients with both psychiatric and medical conditions. (Kaiser Permanente’s inpatient psychiatric unit in Santa Clara, which opened in 2010, is licensed to provide psychiatric care only.) There will be 40 new clinical positions — including nurses, physicians, and therapists — among the 140 mental health providers at the Fremont facility. 

“At Kaiser Permanente, addressing the growing need for mental health care is a top priority,” said Janet Liang, Kaiser Permanente in Northern California president. “These new facilities in Alameda County, including our first-ever medical-psychiatric unit, represent our commitment to expand mental health services across our region.”

The new medical-psychiatric unit at Kaiser Permanente’s Fremont Medical Center helps make sure that patients’ psychiatric care is not delayed while their acute medical issues are being treated, meeting a need for patients with co-existing psychiatric and physical disorders. The secure, 11,000-square-foot facility offers a safe, positive, and healing environment for clinicians and medical staff to co-manage patients’ medical and psychiatric care.

The unit has a total of 18 beds including 12 private rooms, 3 semi-private rooms, therapeutic space, and specialized care support as needed. The facility has activity and support areas including a separate dining and multipurpose room and a secure outdoor landscaped area giving patients access to nature and fresh air. The unit is approved by Alameda County to treat the most challenging and acute cases.

“Our community has long known and advocated for a solution to the shortage of emergency psychiatric beds in the face of growing demand, as well as the need to care for those with both physical and psychiatric conditions,” said Aaron Chapman, MD, behavioral health medical director, Alameda County Behavioral Health Care Services. “The opening of Kaiser Permanente’s new medical-psychiatric unit addresses a critical need in southern Alameda County.”

Kaiser Permanente is also opening outpatient mental health and wellness centers in San Leandro and Fremont this year, adding 100 new offices where mental health providers will treat patients. The wellness centers also offer additional rooms for individual and group therapy, new technology integrated in to the facility to offer telehealth options for patients, and greater privacy for patients. Kaiser Permanente therapists will provide services for the full range of patients’ mental health and wellness needs, including addiction and recovery, anxiety and stress, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism spectrum disorder, bipolar disorder, psychotic disorders, chemical dependency, depression, eating disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

“Mental wellness is a key component of a healthy, thriving life. Kaiser Permanente’s unique system enables us to integrate mental health and wellness with primary care, specialty care, and emergency care – making it part of our members’ total health,” said Eric Cain, MD, physician in chief at Kaiser Permanente Fremont Medical Center.

“These new wellness centers will offer services to our patients in beautiful, dedicated spaces, and align with our commitment to supporting the mental health needs of southern Alameda County and beyond.”

Since 2015, Kaiser Permanente has increased therapist staffing by 30%. Kaiser Permanente is currently seeking to hire at least 300 new therapists in California. Under a new initiative, 140 therapists are being trained each year, in addition to 2 psychiatry residency programs in Oakland and San Jose.

Kaiser Permanente has also distributed $4 million in grants to community organizations providing mental health services or programs that reduce the stigma of mental health conditions. To enhance patient convenience and access, Kaiser Permanente is also greatly expanding the use of technology in mental health care, such as offering video visits with mental health care professionals.

“As advocates for mental health care, we applaud Kaiser Permanente for making these investments for greater patient access in the face of a critical shortage of qualified professionals,” said Joe Rose, president and CEO of National Alliance on Mental Illness Alameda County South. “This ensures that our community has access to mental health care and support for those experiencing mental illness.”

About Kaiser Permanente

Kaiser Permanente is committed to helping shape the future of health care. We are recognized as one of America’s leading health care providers and not-for-profit health plans. Founded in 1945, Kaiser Permanente has a mission to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. We currently serve 12.3 million members in eight states and the District of Columbia. Care for members and patients is focused on their total health and guided by their personal Permanente Medical Group physicians, specialists and team of caregivers. Our expert and caring medical teams are empowered and supported by industry-leading technology advances and tools for health promotion, disease prevention, state-of-the-art care delivery and world-class chronic disease management. Kaiser Permanente is dedicated to care innovations, clinical research, health education and the support of community health. 

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