Saturday, December 17, 2011

Interactive: Texas' Shortage of Psychiatrists, Mental Health Workers

Thank you Tammy Heinz for permission to post your story here.
State health officials estimate that more than 488,000 adult Texans are living with serious, persistent mental illness [PDF]. Among children, roughly 154,000 are living with a severe emotional disturbance. While more Texans are being diagnosed with mental health problems every year, advocates say treatment costs are rising [PDF] and there aren't enough behavioral health professionals available to meet the demand for services. This includes psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, licensed professional counselors and advanced practice nurses. Use our interactive maps below to see how dire the shortage is in each county in Texas, as well as how the percentage of Texans who rely on the state for mental health services has changed since 2005.

Mental health experts say the state is simply not producing enough psychiatrists — professionals who hold a medical degree and are able to prescribe medications for patients who suffer from severe mental illnesses like schizophrenia and manic depression. Since 2003, when lawmakers first cut Medicaid reimbursements and residency training to meet a budget shortfall, 10 residency programs statewide have struggled to increase the number of training slots. For each year between 2008 and 2011, the state reports, between 306 and 351 medical school graduates have undergone psychiatry training. Though children and seniors are considered two of the highest-need populations in Texas right now, there are only 49 residents training in adolescent psychiatry and not a single geriatric psychiatry resident. The Tribune's Thanh Tan spoke with a Texan living with anxiety and depression, the executive director of the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health at the University of Texas and the head psychiatrist for Austin Travis County Integral Care, to find out the reasons behind the shortage.

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