Monday, August 24, 2015

The Mental Health Care Shortage by Region

Areas and population groups that are served by fewer than 1 psychiatrist for every 30,000 people earn from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) designation as a mental health care shortage region.  Over 4,000 population groups, with approximately 114 million residents,  have been designated as mental health care shortage areas by the HRSA.  The HRSA further estimates that more than 2,600 additional psychiatrists are needed nationally to eliminate these shortage area designations.  To get a perspective on the severity of the mental health care shortage by region, we aggregated HRSA State-level data into regions based on classifications used here by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

To measure the relative severity of the mental health care shortage from one region to the next, we used a metric that we call the shortage quotient.   This quotient compares a region's share of the national mental health practitioner deficit against that area's share of the overall national population that live in shortage areas.  For example, if a specific region had a psychiatrist deficit that was 4% of the national shortfall, and that region's population accounted for 5% of the national population that lived in mental health care shortage areas, then its shortage quotient would be 0.80 (4% divided by 5%).  A shortage quotient below 1.0 would mean an region's psychiatrist shortage would be less severe than the national average, whereas a shortage quotient above 1.0 would mean the region had a more severe shortage of psychiatrists than the national average.

As of August 2015, HRSA data indicates that, on a relative basis, the region with the most severe mental health care shortage was New England.  Although most other regions had a bigger share of the national mental health practitioner deficit, the shortage in New England was proportionately worse than all other regions.  It's 4.7% share of the national mental health practitioner deficit is disproportionately large considering that the region only accounts for 3.2% of the national population living in designated mental health care shortage areas according the the HRSA.  Excluding U.S. Territories, the mental health care shortage by region breaks down as follows:  


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