Ask NAMI Keystone PA: Access to Psychiatrists

In today’s Ask NAMI Keystone PA Q&A, we’re answering Bryce’s question:

“What is being done to make it easier for people to get access to a psychiatrist? I have insurance, live in a fairly large city and still it can be quite difficult to find a p-doc who is taking new patients. If you are lucky to find one you usually have to wait 3-4 weeks to see them. I don’t think people realize how hard it is for people to get access to support.”

Well, Bryce, you’re absolutely right that access to support is a barrier.  The National Council for Behavioral Health released a report this year (https://goo.gl/PfpM6g) showing that the number of psychiatrists working with public sector and insured populations declined 10% from 2003-2013. The shortage is especially critical in rural areas and among child psychiatrists. But the crisis hasn’t gone unnoticed. There are action plans to address the psychiatrist shortage at all levels.

In 2016, Congress passed the 21st Century Cures Act (https://goo.gl/HsYdMF), which calls for implementing a number of ideas including:

  • Reauthorizing grants to support internships or field placement programs in mental health.
  • Establishing a training program for medical residents & fellows to practice psychiatry in underserved, community-based settings.
  • Utilizing the Minority Fellowship Program, which helps racial and ethnic minority psychiatry residents provide mental health services to underserved, minority populations.

At the state level, there is an effort to increase the number of mental health professionals with two loan forgiveness bills:  HB710 (https://goo.gl/8fXk9y) and SB134 (https://goo.gl/rzjsyn).

And in southwestern PA, NAMI Keystone Pennsylvania’s adult advocate is on the Allegheny County Single Point of Accountability Workforce Development Committee, which aims to recruit and develop well-trained service coordinators.

While all of these initiatives will take time to implement, the National Council’s report cites the growing acceptance of telepsychiatry as an option.  And according to a recent article in Forbes (https://goo.gl/8Fkv3p), more and more insurance companies are covering telehealth for behavioral health services.

Thank you, Bryce for your thoughtful and important question.  Don’t forget everyone – Friday is “Ask NAMI Keystone PA” day. Send us your questions via Facebook or Twitter and will will post answers the following Friday.

Thanks for reading!

August 25, 2017
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