Mental health professionals are another group of providers who are preparing for the millions of Americans who will become newly insured via the Affordable Care Act. New health insurance policies obtained through the insurance exchanges must contain mental health coverage, and existing plans must also do so when they are up for renewal. As a consequence 62 million more Americans are going to have access to mental health services. That increase is troubling considering 90 million Americans live in areas with fewer than one psychiatrist per 30,000 residents. Innovative solution Some mental health providers have come up with an innovative solution to manage the gap between mental health demand and the supply of psychiatrists. They are partnering with primary care providers. Primary care providers have begun treating mental health problems with oversight from psychiatrists. The psychiatrists develop the treatment plans and primary care physicians and nurse practitioners carry them out. Interest in mental health services in the primary care setting has also been fueled by the growing awareness that mental health and physical health typically go hand in hand. Patients with diabetes and heart disease are two times more likely to have anxiety and depression than the general public. Furthermore, a significant portion of all primary care patients (25%) have one or more psychiatric disorders. Proven results The new partnership between primary care providers and mental health professionals is seen as an improvement over the prior practice of primary care providers referring patients to mental health professionals. A 2002 study found that only 60% of patients followed through with the referral. The University of Washington found that providing a year of integrated care cost saved an average of $4,000 in lower medical bills over the next four years. Healthcare organizations that are interested in experimenting with this integrated model may consider using locum tenens psychiatrists to test the concept. Barton Associates recruits new psychiatrists and psychiatric NPs every day. Contact us today!