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Mental health providers are in short supply in New Jersey, so what should people in need do?

Overcoming the shortage of mental health professionals
Overcoming the shortage of mental health professionals 02:26

NEW YORK - Post-pandemic, mental health is being valued more than ever before, but securing an appointment with a provider is more than difficult than ever.  

"There's a crisis across the country," Carolyn Beauchamp, president of the Mental Health Association in New Jersey, said. 

"The difficulty people are having accessing treatment is what I might call a crisis," said Dr. Peter Bolo, chairman of psychiatry at Overlook Medical Center, Atlantic Health System. 

Bolo and Beauchamp both say demand for mental health treatment far exceeds the supply of experts trained to help.  The driving factor behind the crisis could be considered good news.

"More people interested in speaking about how they're thinking and feeling and functioning," Bolo said. 

"The system hasn't caught up to this stronger need for service," Beauchamp said. 

"There's not a decrease in the number of providers. There's probably a gradual increase. But we need more," Bolo said. 

As a result, those in need face increasing wait times – sometimes weeks - and the public sector faces an additional challenge.

"Our practitioners have been leaving to go to telehealth," Beauchamp said. "The pay is better. Many people feel the situation is better for them and their families, so they're leaving the ranks."

Leaving the ranks for private practice. Licensed Psychotherapist Janelle Corrie did this during the pandemic to work with a more specific client population. She said she's now fully booked. 

She said her, and her colleagues, constantly field the question.

"I have colleagues who are constantly being asked, like, do they have openings?" Corrie said. 

So what if you are trying to find help and hitting road blocks?

"Don't give up," Corrie said. "Utilize your network, your resources. Somebody knows somebody, who knows somebody, right?"

You can also reach out to N.J. Mental Health Cares for statewide referrals, information and support.

Atlantic Health System just opened the first of its kind in the state EmPATH Unit, which Stands for Emergency Psychiatric Assessment, Treatment and Healing. The unit takes patients facing mental health crisis out of the ER into a more welcoming space with the ultimate goal of reducing hospitalizations.

Beauchamp adds sometimes waiting for that appointment is the hardest part.  She urges, if struggling, confide in those you trust until you finally speak with your provider, and, if in crisis, dial 988. 

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