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Shortage Of Psychiatrists Causing A Growing Mental Health Crisis

ROSLYN HEIGHTS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – A shortage of mental health providers is keeping some patients waiting for months.

Many families are paying out of pocket to get help because healthcare providers are refusing to take insurance – saying reimbursements are just too low.

One quarter of Long Island families surveyed said they were unable to find a mental health provider who takes their insurance. Those families told CBS2 they're angered having to wait for help.

"Sometimes it takes them days, weeks, months, even years," Andrew Malekoff, CEO of North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center said.

Malekoff added the shortage means many families are giving up. Some are enrolling in a "clinics" that lack in privacy or - in Jenna Kern-Rugile's case - footing the bill for each 45-minute session.

"It was $500 a visit, I was not doing well, I was desperate, but I was willing to pay that because I was desperate… Out of pocket and I wasn't working because of the depression," Kern-Rugile explained.

Ninety percent of primary care physicians reportedly accept insurance, but only 55 percent of psychiatrists accept insurance because of the low reimbursement rates.

(Credit: CBS2)

"We are seeing a lot of kids coming in with anxiety depression being diagnosed with ADHD," Dr. Michele Reed said.

Yet the family practitioner added that she struggles to find psychiatrists for her young patients.

"It's devastating. Three of the highest burden illnesses for children (are) depression, bi-polar, schizophrenia. Those are the kind of things child psychiatrists treat and there just aren't enough of us," psychiatrist Dr. Stephen Perret said.

Major health systems on Long Island are trying to make "behavioral health care" more accessible; placing mental health experts into family care settings where insurance is accepted.

"The last thing you need is to be turned away when you're calling for help," Kern-Rugile said.

Experts say medical schools need to graduate 30 percent more students in psychiatric medicine to meet the current demand.

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