Millions of Americans with mental illness are being told to get help; however, the question remains: who is going to treat them? In the United States, the shortage of mental-health providers has been a significant problem for quite some time now and only recently have people been encouraged to seek treatment. Additionally, many Americans are now finding that they can afford treatment as a result of new federal requirements that guarantee mental-health coverage in insurance plans.
As of September 2014, about 96.5 million Americans are living in areas with shortages of mental-health providers, according to an assessment by the Health Resources and Services Administration, a unit of HHS. Some of the reasons behind the shortage include the long pipeline for training them, as well as low pay and a high turnover rate. Despite provider groups pushing for an increase in federally funded residency slots to train physicians, there has been no increase.
Most recently, the American Psychiatric Association has started working more closely with its physician members, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants after a long history of protectiveness over its members’ powers. Some local health-care systems have gone further and tried to use as many kinds of mental-health providers as possible – including many who aren’t medically educated. These efforts have led to decreases in crisis visits, less inpatient recidivism, and greater clinical stability. Further, improvements in healthcare technology has helped monitor patients with certain mental illnesses, decreasing their hospital admissions and emergency-room visits while improving their quality of life.
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