National mental health provider shortage hits Marshfield Clinic
Clinic forced to make difficult decision to no longer staff Norwood Health Center
MARSHFIELD — Marshfield Clinic this week informed Wood County officials that due to a significant shortage of mental health providers, it will no longer staff Norwood Health Center for mental health services beginning later this year.
“This was one of the toughest decisions we have had to make in a long time,” said Dr. Justin Schoen, who chairs the Clinic’s mental health department. “The national shortage of mental health providers is a public health crisis and one we have fought hard to keep from impacting care we deliver. With a heavy heart, we were forced to make this decision in order to continue serving the thousands of patients we provide care for in our outpatient clinic.”
Marshfield Clinic, which has one of the only mental health programs in the region, remains committed to providing mental health services to communities it serves. Clinic behavioral health experts have designed a team approach to mental health treatment, allowing its providers to serve more patients each day.
This approach includes using nurse care coordinators, counselors, psychologists, and other mental health experts to help the Clinic’s four Marshfield-based psychiatrists reach more patients. The Clinic also has devised a system to quickly fill missed appointments with patients who may be on a waiting list.
Last year, Marshfield Clinic Marshfield Center behavioral health providers had nearly 29,000 patient encounters and saw 7,181 unique patients.
“We continue to look at creative solutions to reach patients,” Schoen said. “We have to use our resources to the best of our ability to help the most people we can in our communities.”
The shortage of mental health providers nationwide is staggering. Currently, a shortage of 45,000 psychiatrists exists, and medical training programs are producing just 950 new providers each year, Schoen said.
The effort to bring more psychiatrists to the Clinic continues in full force, said Marci Jackson, Marshfield Clinic’s physician recruitment manager. However, it can take up to four years to recruit a psychiatrist.
“All of my physician recruitment colleagues across the country are struggling with recruiting psychiatrists,” Jackson said. “It’s one of the most difficult searches because there just aren’t enough psychiatrists for available jobs.”
Providing services at Norwood in the future remains an option if the Clinic can build its staff of psychiatrists. Schoen said the Clinic’s Marshfield Center needs seven to eight full-time psychiatrists to meet current inpatient and outpatient needs in the community.
The Clinic will continue to provide primary care medical services at Norwood due to sufficient levels of staffing available.
“We have fought so hard to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health, an effort we’re extremely proud of,” Schoen said. “But with that increased awareness comes an increased need for psychiatrists. We’ll continue to look at ways to be part of the solution as we continue to serve our communities.”