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News & Press: WPA News

Wisconsin Is In Short Supply of Psychiatrists

Wednesday, October 24, 2018  
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Editor's note: WPA President Justin Schoen, MD was recently featured by the Wisconsin Public Radio in an article discussing psychiatrist shortage in Wisconsin. The article reported that 20 of Wisconsin's 72 counties have no practicing psychiatrists and highlights several initiatives at the state level to address the shortage, including a loan and grant assistance to attract psychiatrists to underserved areas, and the two new psychiatry residency programs in the northeastern and central part of the state. 

Wisconsin Is In Short Supply Of Psychiatrists
October 19, Wisconsin Public Radio

The demand for mental health professionals is outstripping the supply, especially when it comes to psychiatrists. And when patients have nowhere else to go, they often end up in hospital emergency rooms.

"Wisconsin has had at least one recent episode where all of the psychiatric beds in the state were full and patients were being boarded in the ER. Boarding in the ER has become an increasing problem for our state," said Dr. Justin Schoen, who oversees mental health services at Marshfield Clinic Health System and is also the president of the Wisconsin Psychiatric Association.

The overflow of mental health patients into emergency rooms is an issue that expands beyond Wisconsin.

"Patients needing inpatient treatment end up bouncing from group homes to acute-care settings, like the emergency department or, worse, end up in jail," Dr. Anne Zink, an emergency physician in Palmer, Alaska, wrote in an opinion piece for STAT news.

Police often are the first to intervene when someone is experiencing a mental health crisis. Law enforcement in Dane County have long sought a closer location to take those having a mental health crises. But the closest hospital is Winnebago Mental Health Institute in Oshkosh, a roughly two-hour drive from Madison.

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