Beyond Parity

Primary Care Physicians' Perspectives on Access to Mental Health Care

About two-thirds of primary care physicians (PCPs) reported in 2004-05 that they could not get outpatient mental health services for patients—a rate that was at least twice as high as that for other services. Shortages of mental health care providers, health plan barriers, and lack of coverage or inadequate coverage were all cited by PCPs as important barriers to mental health care access. The probability of having mental health access problems for patients varied by physician practice, health system and policy factors. The results suggest that implementing mental health parity nationally will reduce some but not all of the barriers to mental health care.