(St.Joseph,MO) For the first time Governor Mike Parson is touring the state to talk about the challenges healthcare professionals face when addressing mental health. Thursday Parson stopped at the Family Guidance Center in St. Joseph to talk with a panel of healthcare providers, physicians and local law enforcement about the problems impacting mental health services in Missouri.
"There's some huge opportunities for the state to be better stewards of the way we operate,"Parson said.
Missouri Department of Mental Healthcare Director Mark Stringer said the state is falling in line with the national trend of having an increased number of people seeking mental health services, but a decreasing number of qualified mental healthcare providers.
"We should expect in Missouri a shortage of nearly 500 mental health counselors, more than 500 psychologists and 230 psychiatrists through the year 2022," Stringer said.
In 2017, Missouri was ranked 36 in the country for access to mental health care, but Stringer said telehealth programs have helped reach more people and improve rural services over the last five years.
“In 2013, just within the public system, we had about 2,000 mental health visits via telehealth. In 2017, that number had risen to over 5,000. Over the last five years we’ve had a total of over 17,000 visits via telehealth,” Stringer said.
In 2016,psychiatrist from Mosaic Life Care began providing mental health services via telehealth to patients at Albany Hospital to help individuals and families unable to travel to the nearest mental health care provider.
Amanda Maretoli-Shimmin, Director of Outpatient Behavioral Health at Mosaic Life Care, said telehealth programs provide virtual doctor visits to help keep patients on a more affordable and consistent schedule with their doctor.
"A lot of our patients and families can't make that drive constantly to have coordinated care. So there is not a break in services we offer telemedicine services so they can travel 15 minutes, 20 minutes versus an hour and a half,"Maretoli-Shimmin said.
For many Missourians insurance costs can still cause problems for people looking for help.
"Insurance continues to be something we work through with people that have a lack of insurance or insurances that are not covered with some of the larger insurance companies,"Maretoli-Shimmin said.
Parson said he will be working with healthcare professionals from across the state to help provide more resources for individuals and families in need of mental health services.
"Healthcare drives where we've got to go and we've got to figure out how to make that affordable and how to make sure people have it,"Parson said.
During the meeting Parson said he was also in support of a bill proposed by Senator-elect Tony Leutkemeyer to establish a statewide prescription drug monitoring program.The roundtable was a part of the Governor’s Healthcare Week tour. Parson will continue his tour around the state, stopping in places like Kansas City, St. Louis, Jefferson City and Bolivar.