The Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences is creating a new psychiatric residency program that will provide immediate relief for the shortage of mental health physicians in the Tulsa area and address the long-term issues created by a lack of psychiatrists across the state.
There is currently only one residency program in Tulsa, through the University of Oklahoma School of Community Medicine Department of Psychiatry, and two in the Oklahoma City area.
“That comes up with really very few spots for Oklahoma in general. So a lot of our future psychiatrists are leaving the state for training and they’re not coming back,” said Jason Beaman D.O., chair of the Department of Behavioral Services at OSU-HSC. “We just don’t have enough spots to train future psychiatrists and on the other hand, there’s not enough psychiatrists in Tulsa.”
Because of the significant shortage in Tulsa-area psychiatrists, the ones who are practicing here can demand a high salary, which drives up the overall cost of mental health care, Beaman said.
“In order to change that we want to increase the supply,” he said.
The Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services approached OSU last year to collaborate on a psychiatric residency program and the university has since been able to secure funding and accreditation.
The first five participants will begin their residencies July 1.
The program will accept five new participants each year and there is already interest from out-of-state students to transfer to the upper levels of the residency program once it gets underway, Beaman said.
During the four-year program, they will rotate between the Tulsa Center for Behavioral Health, Family & Children’s Services, Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center in Muskogee and a new psychiatric outpatient clinic being created by the OSU Center for Health Sciences.
“We don’t have to wait four years to see the results. This is putting resources to work immediately,” Beaman said.
Tulsa Center for Behavioral Health has an immediate need for two physicians.
“They see the sickest of the sick psychiatric patients and they’re literally in the trenches right now,” Beaman said.
The average wait time to see an outpatient doctor in the Tulsa area, for those who don’t have insurance, is six weeks, Beaman said.
A wait that long can result in a person’s lapse of medication, which can in turn result in an episode that needs serious treatment. Creating the outpatient psychiatric clinic will reduce the six-week average wait time for outpatient psychiatric care and ease the load at places providing in-patient treatment.
“The shortage of psychiatrists in Oklahoma has led to far too long wait times for needed services to those vulnerable citizens in our community and state,” said Mike Brose, Mental Health Association Oklahoma CEO. “We are pleased that OSU has chosen to train these future psychiatrists in settings of greatest need in our community: Tulsa Center for Behavioral Health and Family & Children’s Services, as well as in service to veterans through the Veterans Administration.”
OSU’s new outpatient clinic will be a partnership between the school, Family & Children’s Services and the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.
A location for the clinic is still in the works.
“Tulsa has a shortage of psychiatrists, which hampers mental health access. OSU’S bold initiative to establish a psychiatry residency will ultimately result in a significant increase of psychiatrists in our state — a critical factor to improving access to care in Oklahoma,” said Gail Lapidus, CEO of Family & Children’s Services.
Mike Averill 918-581-8489