In 2015, the average child and adolescent psychiatrist in Kentucky was 55 years old, and psychiatrists say many in the field are retiring without replacements. Kentucky and most other U.S. states are facing a severe shortage of psychiatrists, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP). Psychiatrists and mental health advocates say America today needs more than 30,000 child and adolescent psychiatrists, and has only 8,300—and the need appears to keep rising. AtCincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, where Rebecca’s therapist is based, children in psychiatric distress account for more than 7,000 annual emergency room visits per year. Ten years ago, the emergency room saw half as many such visits.
Advocates have long scrambled for solutions to the problem: increase funding for clinics; expand loan-forgiveness programs so medical students might be encouraged to go into child psychiatry; increase the number of psychiatric beds in hospitals; and expand telehealth. More recently, U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, a Republican from Pennsylvania and a child psychologist himself, introduced the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, which included funding for collaborative telemental health programs.
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