Harlan Still & Koch

Gov. Nixon proposes grants for mental health training

One issue in the national debate on mental health care is that there is a shortage of psychologists and other mental health professionals in the country. Without enough psychologists and psychiatrists, many people in Missouri struggle to find someone to provide them necessary medical attention.

This can lead to untreated or mistreated mental health conditions, which can have consequences for the patient, and potentially the public.

Fortunately, changes in the law may increase access to mental health care. The Affordable Care Act requires insurance companies to cover physical and mental conditions equally. And President Obama has proposed a $100 million program to increase both access to and quality of mental health care.

Some officials in Missouri are also hoping to improve the mental health system locally. Gov. Jay Nixon recently announced a proposal to encourage more young people to pursue a career as a mental health professional. He would like to give $20 million in grants to the state’s universities, to help pay for the education of 1,200 students.

Those students would be trained as clinical psychologists, child psychiatrists and advanced nurse practitioners. Nixon said these grants would eventually lead to serious gaps in availability of mental health services. Seventy-two counties in Missouri currently do not have a single licensed psychiatrist practicing in it.

Obviously, it is highly naïve to assume that nobody in those counties needs mental health care. It is very likely that each of those counties has several residents living with mental illness; probably many of them receive Social Security disability benefits due to their condition.

Hopefully, this idea will lead to greater access to care within a few years.

Source: WDAF-TV, “Gov. Nixon hopes to fix mental health professional shortage,” John Pepitone, Dec. 18, 2013

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