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Shortage crisis in mental-health care


Herewith a look at the where and why of America’s shortage of mental-health clinicians. That shortage, of course, leads to a higher incidence of more obviously “physical illness”.

Consider that {m}ore than half of U.S. counties have no mental-health professionals and so ‘don’t have any access whatsoever,’ according to Thomas R. Insel, M.D., director of the National Institute of Mental Health, told The Washington Post. Most of the severely underserved areas are in the South and West.

“Nearly one in five adults — about 43 million people — had a diagnosable mental disorder within the past year. For nearly 10 million, the condition was serious enough to affect their ability to function day to day. Millions of adolescents also struggle with a debilitating mental disorder,” The Post said.

“Many people have become eligible for mental-health coverage under the  Affordable Care Act. Yet finding the professionals to deliver that care is increasingly tough.”

“Experts cite inadequate reimbursement from government and private insurance plans as one factor.

“‘A medical student leaves medical school and residency with the same amount of debt no matter their specialty, yet primary care and psychiatry are professions with some of the lowest annual salaries,”‘ Chuck Ingoglia, senior vice president for public policy at the National Council for Behavioral Health, told the newspaper.

‘”If you look at the valuation for an hour of therapy, you could say we pay plumbers, carpenters and handymen more than we pay for behavioral health,”‘ said  Paul Gionfriddo, president of Mental Health America.


Kaiser making mental-health push


The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.

The San Francisco Business Times reports that Kaiser Permanente says it has hired about 500 mental-health therapists since 2011 and plans to hire 354 more mental-health clinicians by the end of this year. Consumers and regulators have long criticized the healthcare giant for allegedly failing to adequately staff its mental-health clinics.

Given the close connection between mental- and behavioral-health problems and other, “physical” illness (especially vivid in  the throngs of returnees to hospital emergency rooms), Kaiser could end up saving money by hiring these mental-health professionals.

Kaiser officials called the moves “part of the organization’s ongoing efforts to be the leader in providing high-quality mental-health care” and ending the stigma connected with seeking care for mental illness.

Kaiser also plans to spend $115 million “to refresh and remodel” at least 76 mental-health clinics in California and will spend other money  to build an unspecified number of new mental-health facilities “as a result of the organization’s increasing membership,” the paper reported.


Mobile health apps for mental illness


From HealthAffairs:

“As health experts seek to integrate mental health into primary care, and patients themselves look for opportunities to take more control and have a greater say in their care, digital mental health solutions are taking root. A PricewaterhouseCoopers survey found that almost nine of every 10 clinicians in the United States believe mobile health applications will become essential for patient care over the next five years. It would stand to reason that these innovative approaches should also play a role in mental health policy discussions.”

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