Thursday, April 16, 2009

Finding Quality Mental Health Treatment: Voodoo Science

The Wall Street Journal posted an article reporting that primary care physicians have difficulty getting mental health services for patients. One blogger rightly mentioned that mental health treatment is still considered a ‘voodoo science’ even in the medical community. Great Point! Let’s face some other hard facts.

Overburdened PCP’s have been asked to handle mental health issues for too long

Mental health treatment has the stigma of a second class citizen in the medical community

Many educated persons can’t tell you the difference between a psychologist, psychiatrist, and a social worker

Mental health treatment is shunned by insurance companies

Few patients can pay for mental health services

It is no wonder that services are under-funded and quality mental health providers are hard to find. Based on these facts, anyone going into the mental health field should have their head examined.

We need to face the fact that relationship problems, community violence, job loss, financial stress and depression are increasing along with mortgage foreclosures. There is a lot more to do in dealing with these problems than reaching for Prozac! Most mental health patients get very little in the way of targeted treatment, and often receive a treat ‘em and street ‘em approach characterized by promiscuous prescribing practices and embarrassing treatment outcomes if not outright fraud.

The Mental Health Parity Act promises better days ahead, but it is no bail-out. In fact, it will be a while yet before anyone can receive help. The parity act has been delayed until 2010.

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Anonymous said...

I think we just can't get beyond the desire to say, "get over it and stop whining, my life's rough too, but you don't see me falling apart" to anyone needing mental help. We can't get over our 'stiff upper lip' origins enough to give these sufferers the avenues of help they need. Maybe we're just scared that it could happen to us too. I think you're right about the jack of all trades general docs. You get someone who knows a little about a lot of different stuff prescribing medicine. I went to a GP/PCP for depression and left the building with enough Rx scripts to kill three people. The woman actually sat there with her Rx pad in hand and said, what else do you want-sleeping pills, valium, prozac? It was like she was offering to throw any kind of prescription at me just so I would stop crying and get out of her office because she didn't know what else to do with me.

moviedoc said...

I have plenty of room in my psychiatric practice but I refuse to contract with insurance companies and have opted out of Medicare. Which leads to your comment that many potential patients can't afford me. I don't have an easy solution to that, but I keep wondering why my patients often tell me their PCP has changed what I prescribe, or started them on something new, often when I think it may be a poor choice, without even bothering to give me a telephone call. Maybe part of the problem is that many PCP's have little respect for psychiatrists.