Texas has long had a psychiatrist shortage. In fact, as Texas Standard reports, 73 percent of counties in the Lone Star State have no psychiatrists at all. In the panhandle, the problem is particularly pronounced.
Karen Duong, a psychiatry resident at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, did her internal medicine training in Hereford, in the Texas Panhandle.
She said as many as half of her patients had mental health needs but couldn’t get the help they needed. She and other doctors often referred patients to therapists in larger cities.
But in many cases, the struggling patients had transportation issues. Instead, they ended up in the emergency room—where taxpayers footed the bill for their care. Other patients self-medicated through alcohol or drugs and often ended up in jail.
One solution? More funding for mental health care in West Texas.