A report recently published by the National Council for Behavioral Health lays bare the challenges faced by service providers in providing their patients with adequate psychiatric care. Among the many startling findings is the scope of the shortage which has become a nationwide problem:
"[The] study revealed that 55 percent of counties in the continental U.S. do not have any psychiatrists. Another study concluded that 77 percent of U.S. counties had 'severe shortages' of psychiatrists and other behavioral health providers."
The report goes on to highlight a number of factors that have contributed to and exacerbated the shortage, particularly those that have led an increasing number of psychiatrists to operate exclusively in cash-only private practice. The result of which is that outpatient clinical psychiatry is left with an acute shortage of psychiatrists. These factors include: work environments plagued with employee burnout; a delay in the adoption of efficient and productive services such as Collaborative Care and Telepsychiatry due to regulatory restrictions; insufficient levels of reimbursement for psychiatric care; and the challenges of servicing geographically dispersed populations. This has deleteriously impacted the quality of care for particularly vulnerable populations. Families, foster youth, and the elderly are among the groups most likely to experience longer wait times and otherwise diminished access to quality integrated psychiatric services.
While we do not presume to have all of the answers, we see a number of ways in which psychiatrists, mental health agencies, and organizations like Sites Professionals can act to improve access to quality psychiatric care for all patients. For one, we work to improve the efficiency of the processes by which agencies and psychiatrists provide services. Efficiency is the work of systems and should be largely unseen by frontline service providers. It should make their work more fruitful and impactful by removing barriers to productivity and many common causes of burnout. With proper implementation, mental health agencies can dedicate their resources to quality of care while psychiatrists can focus on their clients without getting bogged down in administrative work.