Behavioral health professionals have such varying opinions about the use of psychotropic medications. No matter where you stand on the issue, one thing is certain...Psychiatry is a part of the conversation whenever we discuss a comprehensive approach to behavioral health.
There will always be clients that require medication management to help them achieve their mental health goals. But in a world where there is a severe shortage of psychiatry services; counselors and clinical social workers face the huge challenge of trying to coordinate appropriate care for the clients they serve.
The shortage is real
The difficulty you experience in locating a psychiatrist is not a phenomena isolated to you. The shortage is real and I have only seen it grow in my 10 years in practice. Psychiatric services on an outpatient basis for clients using health insurance is becoming a rarity.
Why the shortage?
I’m sure that anyone you ask can offer reasons for why there is a shortage and they probably are all correct. If you are interested in hearing from a psychiatrist about his experience in choosing psychiatry, here is an interesting post from a UK psychiatrist entitled Shrinking: The Recruitment Crisis in Psychiatry
What Dr. Langford describes appears to resonate with his US counterparts. Fewer and fewer new medical students select psychiatry as a specialization. So much so that the medical field has been researching what they are calling a “recruitment crisis” in psychiatry. They recognize that there is an existing shortage and are planning for an even larger gap based on estimates for future mental health needs and current recruitment trends for that specialization.
Let’s add another interesting layer to the equation. Of the doctors that choose psychiatry as a specialization, how many of them will elect to accept health insurance?
The low reimbursement rates and cumbersome billing procedures are such a deterrent. Even with the new CPT codes and rate adjustments that occurred at the beginning of 2013, many psychiatrists still feel that accepting insurance is too much hassle for too little reward. A sentiment that is often shared by counselors and clinical social workers as well.
More Shrinking Ahead
I recently saw a statistic that over 50% of practicing psychiatrists are over the age of 50 years old. What implications does that have for practice? It would mean that as we move forward and those psychiatrists retire, the situation we face in finding appropriate care will become even more challenging.
So what is the path forward?
Instead of admiring the problem, we are better served by developing creative solutions that will really work to meet client’s needs.
I would love to hear your thoughts on why this shortage exist and what we can do to address it. Next week, I will be sharing a few of my ideas and I would love to include yours in the conversation. Connect with me via email or on Facebook or LinkedIn. I am so confident that together we can find the best path forward.