An Overview of Mental Health in Kent, Washington
The city of Kent, Washington is the sixth-largest in the state, with a reported population of over 128,000, according to 2017 U.S. Census data. It is located in King County, the most populous in the state, and is approximately 20 miles from both Seattle and Tacoma, two of the state’s three largest metropolitan areas.
Kent’s median household income of $61,033 surpassed the national average by about $3,000 for the period 2012-2016. However, more than 15% of individuals were still estimated to be living below the poverty line, per the Census Bureau’s 2016 American Community Survey. That survey also indicated that 7.3% of persons under 65 were living with a disability in Kent, and nearly 14% did not possess health insurance.
Individually or in conjunction, the above factors can contribute to numerous mental health problems, including depression, anxiety and other stress-related disorders.
Mental Health Resources in Kent
Mental Health America suggests that Washington faces a higher prevalence of mental illness than most of the country. As of November 2018, the state ranked 10th-highest in the U.S. in frequency of mental health issues, but just 22nd in access to care. Some factors in determining this statistic include:
- Adults whose psychiatric needs were not met, or who did not receive any treatment;
- Uninsured and/or disabled adults who could not afford services;
- Minors receiving inconsistent or no treatment;
- Children whose insurance did not cover mental health needs;
- Insufficient availability of mental health workers.
In response to these challenges, Governor Jay Inslee signed a March 2018 bill to help improve substance abuse and mental health care throughout the state. A primary goal is the integration of mental health care with existing physical services, which would potentially provide treatment options to more individuals and focus on the benefits of preventative care.
Washington’s supplemental budget for 2018 also earmarked more than $10 million for enhanced drug abuse services, $1 million for expanded outpatient programs and $69 million to improve general mental health treatment throughout the state. These investments do represent a positive shift, but in some regards, they merely offset an 8% dip in funding for psychiatric services that occurred the previous year, per the Seattle Times.
Kent Faces Varied Mental Health Problems
There are many reasons for King County’s varied mental health challenges. Above-average rates in poverty, poor availability of treatment services and even language barriers are just a few examples of contributing factors.
Washington state’s reported uninsured rate was two points lower than the U.S. average as of 2016, at 7% versus 9% nationwide. However, a large concentration of foreign language-speaking households might explain why many still don’t receive the care they need. Research by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality suggests that a lack of English language proficiency can impede access to all forms of health care. The study also finds negative disparities in employment, education and health insurance for this segment of the population.
Over half of those living in Kent from 2012-16 identified as minority or mixed race, including 11% African-American, 16.4% Latin or Hispanic and 18.5% Asian. Overall, more than 28% of the city’s residents were reportedly born outside of the United States, and nearly 40% primarily spoke non-English languages at home.
The Challenge of Finding a Therapist in Kent, Washington
One of the foremost obstacles in addressing mental illness is poor accessibility of services. Crosscut referenced an American Hospital Association survey in 2016 that revealed Washington state as one of the worst in terms of treatment availability. The study found that fewer than 10 psychiatric beds were available for every 100,000 persons in the state, a number that ranked above only New Mexico and Colorado.
The same article does note recent court rulings designed to mitigate this problem. In itself, however, the necessity for such hearings indicates how difficult it can be for cities to make positive gains, with respect to mental health services.