Thursday, March 27, 2014

Psychiatrists aren't crazy about living in Wyoming

They story had me at the first line:
In many parts of Wyoming, it’s impossible to get mental health care.
Darn near impossible in rural areas. Nigh near impossible in settled areas. Close to possible in cities such as Cheyenne and Casper. 

Federal granting agencies consider Wyoming a pioneer state. The entire state, all 98,000 square miles. That means wise heads inside the beltway look out and see a square state filled with yokels in need. That's good news when it comes to getting grants. It's also bad news too, since state-based governmental entities or non-profit orgs or faith-based communities need to fill out the paperwork (or apply online). They often don't. The need is there but the people-power can be lacking. Who will write the grants? And who will manage the grants?

And who will clients turn to when they need a therapist?
The turnover rate for psychiatry in the state, and other providers, is very, very high.
That's PJ Treide being interviewed by Willow Belden on Wyoming Public Radio. PJ is with Health Link Now, a company that provides telepsych services in Wyoming. It lets patients connect with doctors who live elsewhere, using video conferencing.
Treide says Wyoming needs telepsych because it’s next to impossible to convince skilled psychiatrists to live here.
I'm not a psychiatrist, although I sometimes play one on TV. Health Link Now is providing psychiatrists for online sessions. The psychiatrist can be in Brazil, such as the one interviewed by Belden, and the patient can be in Bairoil, which is in Wyoming in case you didn't know.

Thing is, there are psychiatrists in Wyoming that are doing telepsych sessions. My shrink has a video screen the size of his entire wall. When he's not dealing with my psyche, he's delving into the psyches of clients in rural areas or even Rawlins, which has driven more than one doc back to his/her urban roots to get a decent cup of coffee and attend an occasional performance of Aida. This is a rural-urban issue. A recent story in Colorado's 5280 Magazine said that 80 percent of all of the state's mental health providers live in Denver and Colorado Springs. Hugo and Simla share the other 20 percent with La Junta and Craig and all the other less-teeming burgs.

If there's ever been a state made for telepsych, it's Wyoming. It's happening now. But few insurance carriers are on board, insisting that patients actually see someone in-person before they fork over the dough they've been deducting from your paycheck for several decades. I could see myself holding sessions via telepsych. There have been times in my bouts with depression that I've needed a real person in the room. "You gotta help me, doc. I see everything twice!" But not now, not when I'm cruising along on a pretty mellow mixture of psychoactive meds. "I'm OK, doc. I see everything once."

Read more about telepsych here.

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