55 of 72 Rural Counties in Wisconsin Face Psychiatrist Shortage

Fifty-five of 72 Wisconsin counties face a “significant shortage” of psychiatrists and 20 have no practicing psychiatrists at all. The dearth of psychiatrists in these areas, along with the high prevalence of mental illness and substance abuse in the state, likely contribute to a gap in which more than half of Wisconsin adults in need of services for a mental health disorder go without care.

More than three-quarters of the state’s counties have a significant shortage of psychiatrists under the state’s definition and more than half have a shortage under a tighter federal standard, a Wisconsin Policy Forum (WPF) analysis has found.

As providers charged with diagnosing and treating mental health disorders, including prescribing medications, psychiatrists play a critical role in the behavioral health care delivery system alongside other professionals, such as therapists and psychologists. For that reason, the availability of psychiatrists is one important component to patients’ overall access to mental health care. As discussed below, the costs of not providing such care can be substantial.

In 2015, WPF assessed outpatient behavioral health capacity in Milwaukee County and found that lack of access to psychiatrists, particularly among children, is a serious problem in the state’s largest metro area. Here, we use data from the Wisconsin Medical Society to expand the analysis statewide and find significant shortages, particularly in rural areas. Story continued at https://wispolicyforum.org/focus/rural-counties-face-psychiatrist-shortage/