Back in April, Irving physician recruitment firm published a study that found 185 of Texas’ 254 counties lack a psychiatrist. And during the legislative session, the statehouse responded. A bill sponsored by state Sen. Chuck Schwertner, R-Georgetown, passed into law that will give cash incentives to medical school graduates to practice in underserved areas to pay down their student loans. D Healthcare Daily reported on the issue before the session ended.
KERA dug into the bill week. A total of 100 medical health professionals will get between $40,000 and $160,000 to offset their loans. Texas is the fourth worst in the country, notching 4.1 psychiatrists per 1,000 patients. Just Nevada, Mississippi, and Idaho have fewer. The dearth of psychiatrists mean 3.3 million Texans are going without access to one.
But the challenge goes beyond mere volume. It’s about access. Private psychiatry practices have dwindled in rural Texas, and the specialty has moved toward more of a reliance on prescription drugs for treatments. Medical graduates will likely need to partner with physician groups or become part of dedicated behavioral health hospitals, another rarity in rural areas. Largely, primary care physicians pick up the slack for this.