Texas’ psychiatrist shortage has gone national.
The Associated Press pushed a story out to the wire last week using Texas as an example for what some states are doing to address it. As you’re well aware, the Texas Legislature this year approved a plan to help students pay down their loans if they went to practice in underserved areas. A similar bill is in Congress for pediatric psychiatrists.
The AP notes that the total number of physicians rose by 45 percent from 1995 to 2013 but the amount of child and adult psychiatrists went up by only 12 percent. With the U.S. population booming upward by 37 percent, the 6,000 or so new psychiatrists aren’t going to cut it. And they’re not evenly distributed.
Irving’s Merritt Hawkins recruitment firm has beaten the drum on this, paying for a study that found 185 of Texas’ 254 counties lack a psychiatrist. That makes Texas the nation’s fourth worst, with just 4.1 per 1,000 patients. Only Nevada, Mississippi, and Idaho have fewer. An estimated 3.3 million Texans are living without access to one.
The reasons for this are many. For one, the AP reports that psychiatrists make slightly less than general practitioners and significantly less (28 percent, to be specific) than surgeons. Too, sometimes underserved areas are located in rural populations where there just isn’t infrastructure to support a psychiatrist.
To help, proponents are looking to telemedicine. Texas has even seen the potential here—behavioral health was exempted in the Medical Board’s recent rule requiring patient and physician to meet in person at least once before receiving telehealth services.