Unmet Needs: Living with mental illness in central Illinois
According to federal labor statistics, there are more psychiatrists working in Illinois than most states, with the bulk of that service concentrated in the Chicagoland area. Mental health providers still say there are major gaps in service across Illinois, especially downstate. Those living with mental illness, or caring for family members who are, often wait six months or longer to get a first time appointment with a doctor, a waiting period that many say is unmanageable. Illinois Public Media's “Unmet Needs: Living with mental illness in central Illinois” explores the causes of the gaps in care and looks at some of the ways health care providers and advocates are working to improve access. Throughout April, the series also explores the day-to-day challenges of living with mental illness, and what can happen if those with a mental health condition don’t get the help they need. We hear from caregivers and those in need of care, as they talk to each other about what it has been like to adapt to life after a diagnosis.
In this hour-long program on mental illness, Illinois Public Media reporters look at some of the barriers to accessing regular care, efforts to improve mental health care for children and college students, and the ongoing battle against stigma.
Colleges and universities continue to see growing demand for mental health services. But national data published this month shows budgets and staffing levels for most campus counseling centers are not keeping up with that demand.
Federal data shows that a smaller percentage of children in the state in need of mental health care get it compared to the national average. Health care professionals say part of the reason for that is a lack of resources, and parents not knowing where to turn for help.
Robert Russell enlisted in the Army shortly after starting college at the University of Illinois in the late 1960’s because he needed the money. A few years later, when he was home on leave from Berlin, Germany, he met his wife Ann on a blind date. After just a few evenings together, they decided to marry, and have stayed married for the last 42 years.
In many places in Illinois, providers are looking to telemedicine to expand access to psychiatric care. Friday on Focus, we take a look at the nuances of treating patients via a computer screen as a part of our series “Unmet Needs: Living with mental illness in central Illinois.”
Harry Wolin manages Mason District Hospital in Havana, Illinois, one of many clinics in Illinois that provide care to medically underserved areas. The hospital has been treating patients via telepsychiatry, when a patient meets with a doctor via a computer screen, for about four years now. Wolin says they started offering appointments that way after the county mental health center shut down due to lack of funding.
“If we wouldn’t have started offering this service, many of our patients would have had to travel an hour or more to see somebody,” he explains.
In an evolving health care system where cost control and efficiency are key, some are looking to telepsychiatry as a solution; some are more skeptical. Could the technology a way to offer more patients quicker access to a doctor? Is that really the best solution?
Rich and Holly Brandt are a married couple in the Champaign County town of St. Joseph. Both were diagnosed with a mental illness. They dedicate their lives to raising awareness, and they refuse to give in to stigma or labels.