The serious shortage of mental health professionals

Psychiatrists, psychologist or any health care workers are and have been in demand.

Posted: Nov. 29, 2018 8:47 AM
Updated: Nov. 29, 2018 6:05 PM

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI)- According to a study, 1 in 5 people in the United States are dealing with a mental illness. Experts say there is a serious shortage of mental health professionals to help them.

Indiana State University (ISU) is working on the problem.

University officials say appointment times at the counseling center are quickly filling up at ISU. The school currently has six full-time counselors, one part-time physiatrist, and 15 interns. But, it barely scratches the surface for the number of people needing help.

Psychiatrists, psychologist or any health care workers are and have been in demand.

Dr. Andy Morgan, dean of students at ISU, says the demand means he spends a lot of time on recruitment.

“It’s a candidate’s market,” Dr. Morgan said. “Whenever you are doing a job search, you are hoping you get an applicant. And, where we are located in the Wabash Valley it’s harder to recruit candidates here when they make much more money in Indianapolis.”

Dr. Morgan says the university helped more than 900 students last year. The common case was mental wellness.

Stephen Lamb, student body president and a senior at ISU, promised students and staff mental health is his number one concern.

“I have friends that have decided to try to get in several weeks ago and they can’t get in until next semester,” Lamb said.

Lamb says staffing is a big component. Staffing, training, and programming all cost money. To get more staff, you have to pay salary and benefits. And, to have more robust programming the university has to have the resources and capabilities to do so. 

Lamb is proposing students pay a health and wellness fee. On-campus students taking six or more credit hours would pay $75 per semester. He says every student who pays a student recreation fee would also be paying this fee.

Applying the $75 fee to the number of students who currently pay for recreational services totals out to about $1.3 million. This money would help provide more help for students. 

“This is a sustainable way to increase the number of resources on-campus, as the student body increases,” he said. "So, resources are proportional to demand."

Lamb says it’s not the perfect solution, but it is the best thing the university can do right now to help alleviate the problem. The hope is students can get the help they need in the necessary timeframe.

“It’s the waiting period and the crisis appointments that are in demand,” Lamb added. “How long until we see something terrible on the news?”

Lamb says they hope to see the health and wellness fee take affect in 2020.

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