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Idaho seeing shortage in child psychiatrists

Oct. 10 is World Mental Health Day.
Posted: 11:12 PM, Oct 10, 2018
Updated: 2018-10-11 20:47:57Z

The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that Idaho comes as the second to the last state in the nation in regards to how much money is spent on mental health per capita.

And when it comes to getting help, there's one demographic-- experts say-- that is affected by a shortage: children in need of psychiatric mental health treatment.

One Idaho hotline volunteer says the thing that he found most surprising when he started was how many children are calling the hotline.

"That was a huge shock for me and it was a very emotional thing for me too because it was just-- I had no idea," said Blaine Maley, volunteer at Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline.

For kids and teens in rural parts of Idaho-- especially-- it's rare that long-term treatment options are available.

In Idaho, there are only five children psychiatrists per 100,000 people-- a stark contrast to the amount recommended by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry-- which is 47 per 100,000 people.

It's a high demand and a low supply, often meaning longer wait times for kids in need to be seen. The Speedy Foundation founder Shannon Decker speculates why.

"For a young professional, or even for, ya know, someone that's in the middle of their career, moving to Idaho is probably gonna be a pay decrease and it's gonna be an increase in workload," she said.

For kids and teens at risk of suicide, with The Speedy Foundation's Youth Mental Health First Aid program, co-founder Decker aims to put the power of intervention in the hands of the people.

"Training non-clinical folks how to recognize warning signs, have the courage to intervene, feel empowered, and to just reach out and lend that hand."

Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline is seeing a, quote, "steady increase" recently averaging about 40 calls, texts, and chats per day.

"Beginning of this month we went over ten thousand contacts for the year. Last year, we weren't even, we didn't even have ten thousand for the year," said George Austin, Clinical Supervisor at Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline.

Reasons for that increase, experts say, could be a combination of factors.

"I think they're learning where to go in a crisis, said Decker. "I think crises are tending to increase, but I think people are reaching out for help more often than they were previously."