DC Residents Wait Weeks for Mental Health Care, Study Says

People who are insured through D.C.’s three largest exchanges may struggle to get a mental health appointment -- or even get a psychiatrist’s office on the phone, according to a new study.

More than eight in 10 psychiatrists recommended by the exchanges were unreachable or refused to take new patients, the American Psychiatric Association study found.

This implies a major shortage of mental health care for D.C. residents: more than 200,000 people buy insurance through DC Health Link. Those who sign up with the three largest insurers wait an average of nearly three weeks to get mental health care.

Fewer than one in 10 people could get an appointment within two weeks.

The authors of the study did not say which insurers they considered the largest. Some of the nation’s largest companies, including Kaiser Permanente, offer plans on the D.C. health exchange.

Customers of those insurance companies may also be provided with outdated information, some of the findings suggest.

Only 51 percent of psychiatrists were reachable at the phone number listed by the insurance company. About a quarter of the phone numbers listed did not work at all.

In the end, only 14 percent of people in the study were able to make a mental health appointment at all.

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