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An Overview of Mental Health in Laguna Niguel, California
Known for numerous parks and public trails, a low crime rate, and a mild coastal climate, Laguna Niguel is a suburban city boasting a population of about 65,000 in southeastern Orange County, California, in the San Joaquin Hills. It derives its name from a Native American village once located in the area and the Spanish word for “lagoon.”
Socioeconomic Profile of Laguna Niguel
Laguna Niguel boasts 33,700 employees. The city serves as a bedroom community for people working in central and northern Orange County job centers. The median household income in Laguna Niguel is very high compared to California and the United States; however, estimates vary widely from $97,894 to $107,101. In either case, the per capita income is approximately half as much at $51,639. Laguna Niguel may be wealthy, but there is a wide discrepancy between the “haves” and the “have-nots.”
Laguna Niguel is an older city relative to the median resident age in California of 36.4, compared to 45.3 in Laguna Niguel. The female population of Laguna Niguel is 51.7%, slightly more than the male population of 48.3%.
Ethnically, nearly three-quarters of Laguna Niguel residents identify as white 72.5%, while approximately 13.9% identify as Hispanic/Latino, 8.6% identify as Asian, and 1.1% identify as black. The percentage of people identifying as two or more races is 3.4%.
Mental Health in Laguna Niguel
The population of California at large has increased since 1995 by more than seven million people. At the same time, California has seen decreased mental health resources, including acute psychiatric beds and facilities, funding, and treatment options, resulting in a mere 44% of adults receiving needed treatment for diagnosable mental illness. The statistics are even more dire for youth, with less than 20% receiving needed mental health services.
Youth comprise a particularly vulnerable population in Orange County, where hospitalization rates of children and adolescents for mental health issues and/or substance abuse have increased by 43% since 2007 even while hospitalization rates of the elderly for similar issues have declined by a similar margin of 41%. The most frequent diagnosis for a behavioral health admission for adults and youth alike is major depression, but hospitalizations due to major depression have decreased for older adults since 2007 by 45% and increased more than twice that number, 99%, for youth during the same period. Hospitalizations related to substance abuse have remained unchanged for the elderly population and decreased for youth by 72% but increased by 19% for adults aged 18 to 64.
Factors Affecting Mental Health in Laguna Niguel
In many respects, Laguna Niguel seems to be doing quite well. However, all California cities face similar challenges that can affect the mental health of residents as well as their access to treatment.
- Homelessness: It’s not always clear whether mental illness causes homelessness or vice versa, but whatever the causative factor may be, it is clear that California is facing a crisis of both homelessness and mental illness and that the two often occur together. An estimated 22% of the 550,000 homeless people living in the United States dwell in California, five thousand of whom reside in Orange County alone. Serious mental illness occurs in 25 to 26% of homeless adults in the country. To be chronically homeless is to suffer from mental illness and to have been living on the streets for over a year. California’s share of the chronically homeless population is 39%.
- Opioid Abuse: Statewide, California’s numbers for opioid abuse and opioid-related deaths are relatively low, but statistics specific to Orange County tell a much different story. Nearly half of all reported prescriptions in Orange County are written for opioids, and the year 2016 showed a 3% increase in opioid prescriptions filled compared to the previous year. There is a positive correlation between emergency room visits for opioid abuse and/or poisoning and opioid prescriptions written, and since 2006, there has been a 215% increase in ER visits related to opioid abuse.
- Natural Disasters: Large-scale catastrophes such as fires, floods, or landslides may contribute to the development of PTSD and other stress disorders. Orange County experiences 29 natural disasters per year, more than twice the US average of 13.