Report: Wisconsin has a psychiatrist shortage

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin is seeing a shortage of psychiatrists, with 20 of the state's 72 counties lacking a practicing psychiatrist, according to a report.

The Wisconsin Policy Forum found that some counties are sharing the practicing psychiatrists they have, Wisconsin Public Radio reported .

The group said there's loan and grant assistance programs aimed at drawing psychiatrists to underserved areas. The Medical College of Wisconsin has also started two new psychiatry residency programs.

"One of the things we do know is that psychiatry residents do tend to stay closer to where they did their training," said Dr. Justin Schoen, who oversees mental health services at Marshfield Clinic Health System and is also the president of the Wisconsin Psychiatric Association.

Officials across the state are also working to add more inpatient beds but those likely won't be operational for a few years.

The policy forum's brief suggests expanding telemedicine options could help reach more people.

"Given the dramatic shortage of providers that there are, we actually wouldn't have enough providers to meet the appointment demands even if we were have telehealth services with all the providers throughout the country," said Schoen.

Better integrating behavioral and physical health could potentially help, Schoen said. Having primary care doctors help patients find mental health resources would also help, he said.

More than half of adults who need mental health treatment aren't getting it, according to a 2017 Wisconsin Department of Health Services report.

Police often intervene during a mental health crisis. People who can't find help often end up in hospital emergency rooms.

"Wisconsin has had at least one recent episode where all of the psychiatric beds in the state were full and patients were being boarded in the ER. Boarding in the ER has become an increasing problem for our state," Schoen said.

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