Bay Area sees shortage of therapists as California reopens after COVID-19 pandemic

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) – As the state reopens and people return to their normal lives, the need for mental health supports increases.

Experts say there is a shortage of behavioral health professionals in the Bay Area, but there are still ways for you to find help.

It’s summer in the Bay Area. The weather is nice; the state is reopened again. Everything is fine, right?

Not quite, according to Kaiser Permanente Chair of Chiefs of Psychiatry and Addiction Medicine Dr. Maria Koshy.

TAKE ACTION: Get help with mental health issues

“Now that the immediate acute stage of the pandemic has passed, when this was happening there was a lot of adrenaline flowing through the system and everyone was in survival mode,” Dr Koshy said. “Now that these immediate stressors are over, people are starting to understand the full impact of what has happened over the past year and a half.”

Dr Koshy says there are three times as many Americans reporting symptoms of depression now compared to when the pandemic started.

Mental health professionals are encouraged to see people admit their feelings, but these same professionals are rare here in the Bay Area.

RELATED: Experts Share Tips on Maintaining Mental Health as We Get Back to ‘Normal’

“It’s not just mental health therapists, it’s also psychiatrists and addiction and alcohol counselors,” said Santa Clara County Behavioral Health Entrepreneurs Association executive director Elisa Koff- Ginsborg.

Koff-Ginsborg adds that there are hundreds of mental health support positions open across the South Bay and more needs to be done to keep them.

She says the cost of living and access to telehealth sends these professionals out of the Bay Area.

As a result, people who need help sometimes have a hard time finding it, but there are alternatives.

TAKE ACTION: local resources for people in crisis

“When you find yourself in a situation like this with increased needs and a decrease in our traditional resources that we use, it is extremely important to be creative and flexible and to identify other ways to provide support.” , said Koff-Ginsborg.

Kaiser Permanente does just that.

To cope with their increased caseload, they actually contract out help from other agencies to support their patients as well as their own healthcare team.

Anything they can do to ensure that the mental health of their members is taken care of.

RELATED: Your Mental Health – A Conversation in the Bay Area

“Our priority is to make sure they connect with the care they need right now,” said Dr Koshy.

If you don’t have Kaiser and are struggling to find the help you need, Koff-Ginsborg says trained peer counselors can be used.

You can also visit to find a database of local mental health professionals in your area based on need and even insurance providers.

Resources recommended by local experts:

National lifeline for suicide prevention offers free and confidential support 24/7 to people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.
For TTY users: Use your preferred relay service or dial 711 then 1-800-273-8255

San Francisco Suicide Prevention The 24 hour crisis line offers immediate crisis intervention and emotional support to anyone calling or texting.
Crisis Line: 415-781-0500 or 1-800-273-8255
Crisis text line: confidential 24/7 assistance, SMS MY LIFE at 741741

Asian Mental Health Collective provides low-cost mental health services to the Asian American and Pacific Islander community.

Crisis Stabilization Unit – Edgewood Center for Children and Families
Main line: 415-682-3278
Referrals are accepted 24/7
The Crisis Stabilization Unit (CSU) assesses and treats children and youth (aged 5 to 17) who present with acute psychiatric symptoms or a mental health crisis.

Children’s Health Council provides the best learning and mental health services to families of diverse backgrounds, regardless of language, location or ability to pay.
For English, call 650-688-3625
For Spanish, call 650-688-3650

If you or someone you know is currently experiencing a mental health crisis, we have provided resources to help here.


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