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Informing Policy. Advancing Health.

Why Aren’t Coloradans Getting the Mental Health Care They Need?

Final blog in a series by Policy Analyst Tamara Keeney for Mental Health Month. 

More than 442,000 Coloradans said they did not get the mental health care they needed in 2015. That’s nearly one of 10 residents of our state.

Respondents to the Colorado Health Access Survey (CHAS) who said they did not get care were also asked why.

Statewide, concerns about the cost of treatment and health insurance coverage decreased a good deal from 2013 to 2015. Stigma-related reasons and appointment availability increased.

A new Insight featuring interactive graphics reveals the reasons cited by those who did not get needed care by age, gender, education, income and insurance. Click through the story to see the data.  

Some high-level takeaways:


Older Coloradans are most likely to report stigma as the reason they did not get needed care. More than two thirds of those ages 65 and older said they did not feel comfortable talking with a health professional about their personal problems. Those in the 19- to 64-year-old age group are most likely to cite cost.


Coloradans without a high school diploma are more likely than graduates to say there was a time they did not get needed mental health care – 14.2 percent compared with 9.4 percent. Coloradans without a diploma are more likely than grads to cite stigma and difficulty getting an appointment.


The CHAS data don’t reveal many differences between males and females for forgoing mental health care. However, females are more likely than males to report difficulty obtaining an appointment.


Fourteen percent of Coloradans in the lowest income bracket – zero to 100 percent of the federal poverty level — said they did not get needed mental health care in the past year. This rate is higher than all other income groups.


The uninsured and people with government-funded insurance such as Medicaid are more likely than those with private insurance to cite stigma as a reason for not receiving care.

Understanding why Coloradans are not receiving care can help in the development of policies and programs to increase access to mental health services. One such program in Colorado is Man Therapy, which addresses the stigma issues by using humor and a self-assessment tool called the “18 Point Head Inspection.”

You can access all of the Colorado Health Access Survey data on mental health here