In Arkansas, Mental Health Treatment Bogged Down by Uninsured

by Kate Knable  on Monday, Jan. 28, 2013 12:00 am  

“Sometimes you see a cycle of patients who, if we did have resources for them, they could avoid hospitalization and could function better,” said Barry Pipkin, CEO of The BridgeWay. (Photo by Michael Pirnique)

The Mental Health Council of Arkansas is pushing for a different model.

They adovcate one that would keep clients more consistently out of inpatient treatment and, with the help of case managers, help them learn to manage their own mental health care consistently over time.

Then, “as people grow stable, the focus is on prevention, not acute treatment,” Grunden said.

Money Means Options

Due to state and federal mental health parity laws, people who are insured typically don’t have trouble finding treatment, providers said.

“I think the issue is: Do you have insurance?” Grunden said. “If not, you have a hill to climb.”

Petrizzo echoed that idea.

Community mental health providers tend to struggle to find psychiatrists to hire because there’s more money to be made in private practice, Petrizzo said.

Not enough psychiatrists means longer waits for outpatient treatment, he said. “There’s a shortage there to be able to serve those folks,” he said.

Medical schools aren’t producing enough psychiatrists to meet demand, Petrizzo said, and most psychiatrists aren’t interested in working for community health providers.

Therefore, the sector where there are more doctors, and where mainly paying clients are served, is private practice. Private practitioners can limit the charity care they offer.

So, what’s it like if you have money, insurance or both?

“You’ve got lots of choices,” Petrizzo said. “There’s all kinds of private practitioners.”

Mental Health Checklist

Symptoms that someone needs to be evaluated for mental health treatment, as explained by Lee Christenson, CEO of Springwoods Behavioral Health in Fayetteville:

  • Depression is interfering with the person’s quality of life, relationships and work;
  • A psychotic break is impairing someone’s good judgment in caring for himself;
  • He is abusing alcohol or drugs; and/or
  • He is suicidal or talking of harming others.

“We live in a stressful world. People have a lot of stresses and strains in their life. I think the pivot point of when people really need care is when depression persists over a period of time. There is help and there is hope and people can recover," said Christenson.



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