Bridging the gap of Hawaii’s mental health physician shortage

Sponsored by University Health Partners of Hawaii (UHP) & John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM)

Many people suffer from mental illness, often in silence, and don’t receive the treatment they need to live healthy and productive lives. That’s why experts at University Health Partners (UHP) and the John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) are committed to making mental health services and treatments available and accessible.

Mental health encompasses everything from depression and anxiety to alcohol or substance abuse. There are many common and disabling health conditions worldwide. In fact, mental health challenges often occur with chronic medical diseases and can substantially worsen associated health outcomes. Currently, about 25 percent of people will experience a mental health issue of some kind over their lifetime.

Dr. Sara Haack says that if mental health issues are not effectively treated, it can impair self-care, increase mortality and lead to decreased work productivity while substantially increasing overall healthcare costs.

Dr. Joseph Humphry believes a timely response to mental health needs, especially with youth, can prevent crisis. Yet, there are not enough psychiatrists to provide these services. With psychiatrists in particular being in short supply, it’s no surprise that mental health services can be rendered by many different provider types, including primary care providers. Of people who get treatment for their mental health issues, Dr. Haack explains that about half get treatment from a primary care provider.

Experts at University Health Partners employ an integrated approach to mental health through a patient-centered, team-based way to more quickly identify and treat patients when and where they need to be treated. For example, if a patient had a mental health need, they would go see their regular doctor who would work with University Health Partners, through consultation and support, so that patient could effectively receive treatment within their own doctor’s office. On-site psychologists are also available to provide psychotherapy support to patients.

Dr. Humphry says that in his experience, mental health treatments can be effective and even positively life-altering when administered properly and that they just need to be able to reach more people in need.

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