file photo. (Stephen Fry/MediaNews Group0)
COVID-19 has bombarded the growing needs of mental health providers. Prior to the pandemic, mental health providers, including psychiatrists, retired faster than their replacements were trained.
Workplace stress has added to it due to the pandemic. More than 60 percent of the 2,500 physicians surveyed in 2022 reported experiencing burnout at least once during the height of the Omicron mutation wave.
“COVID-19 has taken a toll on healthcare workers,” said Alison Arnold, director of the Interdisciplinary Center for Community Health Wellness. “It caused burnout, led to an increase in early retirement, and exacerbated the shortage of doctors and health care professionals.”
Central Michigan University School of Medicine leverages talent, partnerships and technology to tackle Michigan’s multifaceted mental health crisis.
Growing medical schools offer financial incentives to recruit doctors to work in underserved communities. They use telemedicine to contact patients with geographic access barriers.
The university also provides support to professionals not directly affiliated with the university through projects to expand broadband access in rural areas. It also provides suicide prevention tools to professionals.
Michigan’s Unmet Mental Health Needs
Data from a leading health policy think tank shows how serious the challenge is. According to a 2022 report from the Kaiser Family Foundation, only one-third of Michigan’s psychiatric care needs are being met. Of the state’s 10 million population, 5.2 million lack adequate access to mental health care.
An additional 226 psychiatrists will be needed to provide such care, according to the foundation. They are called upon to address a variety of issues ranging from mental health crises, suicide prevention, substance abuse, and trauma patients to treatment.
Barriers that prevent access to care also need to be addressed. Arnold said most of Michigan’s mental health providers are concentrated in southeastern Michigan. Solving Michigan’s mental health crisis also requires recognizing geography.
People living in rural areas are just as likely to suffer from mental illness, but are less likely to receive treatment for it, according to a 2020 paper, A Call to Action to Address Rural Mental Health Disparities. is said to be low.
“Rural areas are not all created equal, and whether they are amenity-rich, transitional or impoverished, they face unique challenges,” said Arnold. said. “By leveraging the strengths of each community, it is possible to reduce the stigma associated with seeking assistance for medical needs and build support that leads to local solutions that increase access to services.”
“This is really a health equity issue,” she says.
Expand your broadband and expand your access
The university recently embarked on an effort to determine broadband capacity and help develop access in several rural Michigan counties.
The first phase of the project will measure internet speeds in six rural Michigan counties: Gladwin, Manistee, Missaukee, Montmorency, Osceola, and Oscoda. CMU is one of his three partners working with the Alaska Indigenous Health Consortium, a recipient of federal grants.
The second is part of a $960,000 federal budget to build rural telemedicine infrastructure and clinical service capabilities.
Improving broadband access in rural areas could create a direct connection between psychiatrists and their patients, bridging the gap in some geographies.