Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Mental Healthcare Shortage in Rural Areas: CH-F's Efforts

Eighteen months ago, CH-F started on a journey to better understand the needs of our community. When we started the process of our Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA), we knew that mental health would rise to the top as an unmet need in our community. For years, our physicians have told us that the need was great and the resources very limited. And time and time again, we have experienced it ourselves when a patient seeks the ER as a last resort.

What you might not realize about mental health in our community:
*14% of the U.S. population suffers from moderate to severe mental illness from short-term situational depression to long term chronic conditions such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.
*Suicide rates in rural areas are higher than urban areas.
*Rural areas have a higher proportion of people who are at risk for mental and behavioral health problems, especially older adults.
*Stress is associated with increased mental health disorders. Rural people experience stress with cyclical farm crisis, natural disasters and isolation.
*Rural populations have a greater portion of untreated mental illness than non-rural communities.
*33% of households responding to the CH-F CHNA survey reported depression as a minor or major problem in their household.

And here are a few facts about mental healthcare:
*Distance to mental health providers and transportation costs can be a barrier. There is no psychiatric care in Atchison or Holt Counties.
*Rural Americans are less likely to have health insurance that covers mental health.
*Atchison and Holt Counties are not alone. 104 of Missouri's 114 counties are designated by the federal government as mental health shortage areas.

So what is CH-F doing?
We are so pleased to announce that Carl Greiner, M.D. will begin seeing patients in a psychiatry clinic in January. The clinic will be conducted using video conferencing where patients interact face to face with Dr. Greiner through the use of a screen.

With the shortage of psychiatric care, underserved communities all over the country are utilizing technology to increase access to mental health professionals. The CH-F Psychiatry Clinic is the first telemedicine clinic at CH-F.

Patients will be referred to the clinic by their primary care physician. Our staff will then schedule the patient for an appointment at the hospital. At the hospital, the patient will interact with Dr. Greiner face to face via a screen just like a traditional office appointment. After the appointment, Dr. Greiner and the patient's primary care physician will then collaborate on treatment recommendations.

Psychiatry has been a significant need in our community for many, many years. This clinic represents the first  step toward getting the patients the care they need close to home. We are honored to offer this service to our community.

Those interested in this clinic should contact their primary care physician.