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Psychiatrist Shortage Hits Home in Northwest Wisconsin

Monday, October 29, 2018  
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Editor's note: WPA President Justin Schoen, MD was recently featured by the Eau Claire-based Leader-Telegram in an article discussing psychiatrist shortage in Wisconsin. 

Psychiatrist Shortage Hits Home in Northwest Wisconsin
October 29, Leader-Telegram

A dramatic shortage of psychiatrists in Wisconsin leads to long waits, lengthy trips and even abandoned treatment for many patients who need mental health services.

Ground zero for what several medical officials called a mental health care crisis is the part of the state mostly north of Eau Claire.

Ten contiguous counties in that region — Chippewa, Barron, Rusk, Clark, Taylor, Burnett, Washburn, Sawyer, Price and Lincoln — don’t have a single practicing psychiatrist, a plight facing 20 of the state’s 72 counties, according to a recent report by the nonpartisan Wisconsin Policy Forum. Three other area counties — St. Croix, Trempealeau and Jackson — have less than one psychiatrist per 30,000 residents.

“I look at that map, and I just cringe for our patients,” said Dr. Justin Schoen, who oversees mental health services for Marshfield Clinic Health System and is president of the Wisconsin Psychiatric Association. “It just turns into no man’s land north of Madison and Milwaukee, with a few exceptions.”

Schoen called the shortage a massive national issue, citing estimates that the United States would need 40,000 more psychiatrists to be considered adequately staffed and data indicating that more than 50 percent of practicing psychiatrists are over 55 years old. The average Wisconsin psychiatrist is 50 and 15 percent are 65 or older, the study shows.

“The numbers nationally are, quite frankly, terrifying,” he said. “And the numbers in Wisconsin are just as bad or worse.”

Read full article.