2019 Annual Meeting Coverage: Innovative Approaches to Expand Psychiatric Workforce in California

Presenter Dr. Robert McCarron Article contribution by: Farah Zaida, MD

NCPS held its 59th Annual Conference in the scenic and beautiful City of Monterey from March 22 through March 24, 2019. The conference was very well attended by a diverse group of professionals ranging from medical students interested in pursuing a career path in psychiatry to residents, fellows, early career psychiatrists (ECPs) and seasoned psychiatrists from private and public sectors. The esteemed speakers discussed a variety of topics of interest to the participants. I enjoyed the whole conference thoroughly and would highly recommend to my colleagues who were not able to attend this year’s conference, to consider attending next year so you can experience yourself this unique educational and networking event.

NCPS has a tradition of recapping the conference talks for our members and I will share the summary of Dr. Robert McCarron’s talk addressing ways to overcome the shortage of psychiatric providers and care through innovative approaches to expand the psychiatric workforce. He outlined the scope of the problem by emphasizing the statistics. He pointed out that approximately 60% of psychiatric care provided in Primary care settings by PCPs in the USA and approximately 40% of primary care patients have active psychiatric problems. In addition, approximately 60% of patients with mental health service referrals do not follow up. Another significantly concerning fact is that the rate of suicide continues to rise. He emphasized that while the majority of patients with common psychiatric disorders are seen in the primary care setting, the primary care providers are not adequately trained to effectively treat these psychiatric disorders. Hence, without future planning of effective changes in the psychiatric care workforce, this gap between increasing psychiatric disorders and provision of effective care w

ill continue to rise. With this data in view, he offered several strategies to expand the psychiatric workforce such as, 1) Increasing the number of psychiatry residency positions, 2) expanding the use of psychiatric mental health NPs to prescribe medications, 3) supporting team based models of care in which psychiatrists provide consultation about medications to primary care providers, either in person or via telehealth technology and, 4) providing additional training for primary care providers to increase their ability to care for their patients with most commonly encountered psychiatric disorders in primary care settings.

Dr. McCarron then shared the innovative fellowship program, “TRAIN NEW TRAINERS PRIMARY CARE PSYCHIATRY FELLOWSHIP” which is a fellowship certificate program offered by UC Irvine/UC Davis under his leadership. This is a year-long fellowship program for primary care providers to enhance their skills and expertise to address frequently encountered psychiatric disorders in primary care settings, to identify when to refer patients to mental health specialists and to expand access to psychiatric care. He listed the breadth of mental health related topics covered through this fellowship training. He reported the successful completion of the first cohort of this fellowship program in the past year and advocacy for additional state funding to expand and sustain this endeavor. He also emphasized the importance of advocacy in general for our profession and for our patients, as well as shared a few issues brought up to legislators’ attention during the recent CPA Annual Advocacy Day in Sacramento on March 18th, 2019. One of these issues included loan forgiveness for community psychiatrists to attract graduating and recently trained psychiatrist in public health sectors to reach underserved populations. He concluded his talk by sharing several useful educational resources for training programs and health care providers. This was one of the first talks of the conference which was followed by a trend of amazing talks, one after the other.

Newsletter Reference: 
March/April 2019

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