Avera Behavioral Health Center Turning to Students To Fill Shortage in Mental Health Industry

SIOUX FALLS, S.D.- One in five Americans in the United States will experience some form of a mental illness, but health experts say the shortage of psychiatrist’s and workers in the mental health industry is becoming a growing problem and a Sioux Falls mental health center is feeling the effects.

Dr. Matt Stanley has been a psychiatrist at Avera Health for around 20 years and eventually, he plans to retire. However, he won’t be the only one leaving the industry in the future; over 50 percent of psychiatrists are age 55 or older.

“We may actually retire more psychiatrists than we train to work with our current population,” says Avera Behavioral Health Vice President, Dr. Matt Stanley.

Currently, the United States is facing a mental illness crisis, where a large percentage of the population is suffering from mental illness and the industry is faced with a shortage, where there aren’t enough resources to serve those in need.

“Everybody is trying to get their hands on this; it’s not a South Dakota problem, it’s not a Midwest problem, it’s a United States problem,” says Dr. Stanley.

Avera Behavioral Health Center is also feeling the effects of the shortage as well. The center has 108 beds divided between adults, seniors, and adolescents but not enough practitioners to handle the overflow.

“Probably limited to seeing about 12 to 14 patients a day; whereas primary care, could definitely see another third to maybe double that,” says Dr. Stanley.

The center has found some help from the students going through the Psychiatry Residency Program to help with the gap.

“Although we don’t have all the psychiatrists or behavioral health practitioners we would like. I think we would be in much worse shape, if not for that residency program,” says Dr. Stanley.

The center says they are constantly looking for ways to better the situation and while mental health issues are not going away, psychiatrists are, leaving the industry still looking for answers.

Officials also say the lack of health coverage and not getting an early diagnosis plays a role in the growing demand of people not being treated for mental illness.

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