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Shortage of mental health professionals, especially in rural Louisiana

The Health Resources and Services Administration released information in July 2021 showing the great need for mental health professionals. Read more and see map.

In Alexandria, Louisiana, treating patients with mental health problems is a challenge for healthcare providers. Indeed, the difficulty increases for those who care for individuals in rural areas.

“It has been researched that rural residents are not getting their basic health care and medical checkups as often as they should,” said Katie Corkern, executive director of Louisiana Rural Alliance for Mental Health said. “That makes it even more likely that they won’t get their mental health care.”

Corken submitted data showing that one in 25 people in Louisiana has severe mental illness. She said a major hurdle and inequalities for people in rural communities is access to mental health services.

“There is only one licensed psychologist for every 340 citizens. That number is growing in central Louisiana, ”she said.

Louisiana Needs 200+ Mental Health Employees to Keep Its Current Professional ...Louisiana needs more than 200 psychiatrists to address the current skills shortage.(Source: HRSA)

The Health Resources and Services Administration released information in July 2021 showing the great need for mental health professionals. For example, Rapides Parish is included in the dark blue category, indicating a major shortage in the region.

“It is definitely difficult to get access to care. It is really a crisis.”

Mental Health Professionals Are In High Demand

The impact of the mental health skills shortage also affects hiring decisions for local mental health organizations. Michael Moto, CEO and owner of Healing Hands and Hearts Behavioral Health Center, said it was a challenge to get trained people into the field. He also said that male psychologists are badly needed. His center currently employs a male case manager.

“Most of the problems we see are children without their parents in the house, especially the father,” said Moto.

He said the shortage is putting a strain on mental health organizations. He also believes male mental health workers play an important role in community health.

“Since we don’t have male case managers, we cannot help clients who need male role models and guidance in their lives,” he said.

These role models at an early age can improve health and general life as many in the state juvenile justice system suffer from mental illness.

“Students drop out of school because they get into trouble because or their mental needs and their needs are not being met,” said Corken. “There is drug addiction, incarceration, violence, job stability and, unfortunately, suicide. The rate is every 12 hours, one person in Louisiana dies of suicide. “

Corken said the most important thing is to remove stigma and barriers such as transportation and the provision of services to patients.

Telehealth Solutions Are Not the Only Answer

“It’s so difficult in a rural area because sometimes the nearest doctor can easily be over an hour from someone’s home, making it incredibly difficult to get one more treatment, let alone one treatment,” she said.

She also claims that the expansion of telehealth is leaving many rural families without health care due to the state’s broadband infrastructure. A coalition of nonprofits and other groups has been identified 17 communities in Louisiana considered broadband deserts—A community with 50% or less broadband coverage.

“This is definitely just another barrier,” she said. “If you are unable to receive these specialized behavioral medical services as an inpatient, please contact us. We will try to connect you with a provider near you who will go home and treat children and families so they can lead productive lives. “

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