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Interview: Nevada Ranks 50th For Psychiatrists Per Capita

Reno Public Radio has been examining mental health issues for children and young adults. Even as we report on new initiatives aimed at helping kids and college students cope, it's important to understand that access to mental healthcare in Nevada is hard to come by.

To learn more, our News Director Michelle Bliss sat down with the numbers guy, John Packham. He directs health policy research for the University of Nevada School of Medicine.

Nevada has been facing healthcare workforce shortages for decades because of the state's rapidly growing population and expanding economy. Right now, Packham says the problem is felt both in rural and urban areas across most medical specialties. 

"I think the ones that trouble me the most are those that we're experiencing in primary care and behavioral health, such as psychiatrists," he explains.

Nevada ranks 50th for the state's number of psychiatrists per capita, and the state is also struggling to have enough marriage and family therapists, alcohol and drug counselors, and clinical social workers.

Packham says telemedicine would undoubtedly help expand access to mental healthcare throughout rural areas of the state, but that technology still requires more personnel than Nevada has right now:

"The catch to telemedicine is that there is the presumption there is a provider in an urban area of the state on the other end of that consultation."

Although slow-going, Packham says there has been progress, including plans for expanding medical residency programs and efforts to drum up interest among young students for various jobs in the healthcare industry. 

Michelle Billman is a former news director at KUNR Public Radio.
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