TYLER, Texas (KETK) — In a time of need, our nation is experiencing a dangerous shortage of mental health professionals, leaving many without support.
In Texas, more than 80% of counties are classified as areas with a shortage of mental health professionals, according to the Texas Hospital Association.
“We have two other clinicians as far as psychiatrists, we have a psychiatrist that specializes in treating children and adolescents. So with her, the current waiting list ranges from two to four months,” said Ana Serratos, Licensed Clinical Social Worker at CHRISTUS Trinity Clinic.
Along with the lack of providers, six in 10 practitioners reported that they don’t have openings for new patients and 72% said they have longer waitlists now than before the pandemic.
A recent Harvard University study found that only 17% of phone calls to make an appointment with a mental health professional were successful. Many are still left frustrated as they fight to help their mental well-being.
“At first, it was a long time just trying to get a diagnosis was difficult, trying to find someone who could provide a diagnosis. So, we saw a series of doctors and got referrals from our insurance,” said parent and Director of Communications at Henderson ISD, David Chenault.
Parents like Chenault were able to take advantage of federally-funded programs, like Care Solace at Henderson ISD, a program that connects parents and students with mental healthcare professionals.
“The demand apparently is so high that we were waiting months before we could see a doctor or get a diagnosis to say, ‘Hey, what’s going on now?’ The school was working really closely with us and they were providing counselors for us. We were able to find someone in our community who was willing to provide counseling,“ said Chenault.
Checking in with your school services can help families get in touch with the right resource at an affordable cost.
“More than two-thirds of our district is classified as economically disadvantaged, which just means, you know, they don’t always have the money resources that they need,” said Chenault.
Nationwide, we are also currently 6.4% short of the psychiatrists needed. By 2025, the expected demand will top 60,000, and a need for more than 15,000 professionals.
“Unfortunately, many mental health providers in the area do have waiting lists. Depending on a person’s needs at Mosaic, you may be able to get in tomorrow or it may be a number of weeks or even a couple of months, depending on how specific your needs are. And I think that’s probably the case throughout the community,” said Brittany Gayetsky, Director of Clinical Operation and Therapist at Mosaic Counseling Center.
According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, nearly 60% of psychiatrists are 55 or older. For many, the field of mental health isn’t a profitable one.
“I think things are better than they were five years ago. There’s more psych, psychiatry, and accessibility. But we are trying to make up the difference in what’s been a pretty significant problem for a long time,” said Gayetsky.
Therapists like Gayetsky remind those in need that help is available and that they are never alone.
For those with insurance who are seeking mental healthcare, you can reach out to your insurance company to see which providers in your area are covered under your plan. For people who are uninsured and looking for affordable options, click here to find low-cost clinics in the community that could refer you to a specialist.
If you or someone you know is having trouble feeling anxiety and/or depression, it’s recommended to speak with your healthcare provider. If in a crisis and need immediate help, you can call or text 988.
This is part four of a five-part special report on the subject of mental health. Use the links below to catch up on the series: