While we were doing some research for an article on telehealth technology in the behavioral health space, the terrible tragic school shooting in Florida occurred. In light of the tragedy and the subsequent talks on mental illness alongside gun control, we thought it may be helpful to highlight the extreme shortages of mental healthcare professionals in Florida and the challenges of delivering mental health care.

In his article for The Atlantic ”So You Think Someone Might Be Mentally Ill” John Snook of the Treatment Advocacy Center (Virginia-based non profit) highlights the broken system of addressing mental health, specifically in Florida where almost always, the focus is on immediate harm or if the person might be a danger to himself or others around him/her. Snook noted that a medical model should be the primary model for addressing mental health issues and not put mental health care in the hands or law enforcers who are neither trained for such

In a 2015 special report of the Orlando Sentinel “ Florida’s mental-health epidemic reaches crisis point” makes for scaring readers where the authors highlight how resources are not available or the state’s system to get the resources is hard to navigate for someone to get treatment for mental health issues.

Florida is far from the only problem state, there is a national shortage of mental health professionals in the US. According to the US Health Resources and Services Administration in November 2016, there is a need to add 10,000 mental health providers by 2025 to meet the growing demand. And cited in a 2016 study in the Telemedicine Journal and E-Health, the country is at the ‘threshold of a severe shortage of psychiatrists”.

As of May 2016 according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are only about 24,820 psychiatrists in the US; 166,600 psychologists, and about 2 million that makes up the larger group of ‘Community and social service occupations’ which include ‘substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors’ (91,000), ‘marriage and family therapists’ (36,000), and ‘mental health counselors’ (139,000) among others, Check other relevant statistics from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics here.

Mental health care can be considered as one of the medical fields more apt to use and take advantage of what telehealth has to offer.  It allows not just for remote consultations but also access to self-help tools and various applications which forms part of the patient’s treatment. But could telehealth have made an impact here?