Growing number of child psychiatrists in US bypasses some kids

(Reuters Health) – The number of child psychiatrists in the U.S. has climbed in recent years, but a new study suggests gains have been uneven and access to psychiatric care may be getting worse for kids in some parts of the country.

From 2007 to 2016, the number of child psychiatrists in the U.S. increased from 6,590 to 7,991, a 21.3per cent gain, the study found. The number of child psychiatrists per 100,000 children also grew, from 8.01 to 9.75, a 21.7per cent increase.

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Gains weren't uniform, however.

Six states – Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, North Dakota, South Carolina, and South Dakota – experienced a decline in the number of psychiatrists per 100,000 children. And another six states – Alaska, Arkansas, New Hampshire, Nevada, Oklahoma, and Rhode Island – experienced at least a 50per cent increase in the number of psychiatrists per 100,000 children.

"The supply of child psychiatrists in the United States has improved over the past 10 years but a shortage is still profound in large segments of the country," Ryan McBain of RAND Corporation in Boston and colleagues write in Pediatrics.

More than half of American kids with a treatable mental health disorder do not receive treatment from a mental health professional, McBain and colleagues write in Pediatrics. One of the driving factors contributing to this unmet need is a shortage of child psychiatrists, which is compounded by growing demand for treatment that places additional pressure on a limited supply of providers.

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Improvements in screening and diagnosing childhood mental health disorders, and expanded health insurance coverage for psychiatric care, have had the unintended consequence of exacerbating access problems created by a limited supply of providers, the study team notes.

Historically, the shortage of child psychiatrists has been most acute among disadvantaged populations, such as racial and ethnic minority youth, as well as youth living in impoverished and rural areas, the study team writes.

The current study offers fresh evidence of these disparities.

Child psychiatrists were significantly more likely to practice in high-income counties, as well as in counties with higher levels of postsecondary education, and metropolitan regions.

"The distribution of child psychiatrists also remains inequitable, with a state like Massachusetts having as many child psychiatrists as Oklahoma, Indiana, Georgia, Mississippi, and Tennessee combined, despite these latter states having five times as many children ages 0 to 19," the study team writes.

Limitations of the study include a lack of data on the type of offices where child psychiatrists practiced or how engaged individual clinicians were in these practices, which could impact kids' access to mental health care, the study team notes. Researchers didn'Read More – Source