Fresno Bee Examines Local Shortage of Child Psychiatrists
The Fresno Bee yesterday examined the shortage of child psychiatrists in the Central Valley and its impact on children's access to mental health services. The Bee found that the shortage is "so severe" that available psychiatrists are often forced to see those patients with the most severe problems first, leaving others to wait as long as a year for care. While a shortage has existed for several years, local officials say that the problem could get worse, as several local child psychiatrists are planning to retire or leave the area by the end of the year. The lack of child psychiatrists is a nationwide problem. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, there are 6,300 fully trained child and adolescent psychiatrists practicing in the United States. Experts say that several factors have contributed to the shortage, such as the long and costly training process for psychiatrists and low reimbursements for mental health services. Thomas Anders, co-chair of a recruitment steering committee with the academy, said that insurers often expect patients to be "fixed" within a certain amount of time, similar to traditional medical care for physical ailments, but the results in psychiatric treatment often are incremental. To address the shortage, the academy has a 10-year plan that includes increasing funding for mental health programs, working with medical schools and shortening the training period for those who already have medical backgrounds. The University of California-San Francisco's medical training program in Fresno is attempting to push more students toward child psychiatry, the Bee reports. But until mental health care for children becomes a priority, "the consequences will be severe," according to Dr. Fred Kinnicutt, a child psychiatrist with Children's Hospital Central California in Madera County (Correa, Fresno Bee, 7/29).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.