- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 21, 2014

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - Some state agencies are looking to the University of Kansas Medical Center for help in training more psychiatrists to address a widespread shortage, but school officials say doing so will be neither cheap nor easy.

A consultant hired by the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services - which manages three hospitals and contracts with 27 community mental health centers - concluded that the agency needs to budget for more than three extra psychiatrists to meet its service needs.

“The problem with that is we can’t even come close to filling the psychiatrists that we have budgeted,” Shawn Sullivan, the department’s secretary, told the Lawrence Journal-World (http://bit.ly/1aHSNaW ).

All but five Kansas counties - Douglas, Johnson, Sedgwick, Shawnee and Wyandotte - are federally designated as mental health professional shortage areas.

Rural areas especially are having trouble attracting psychiatrists because the incomes are lower, there are fewer jobs available for working spouses and there is “less of a community of doctors,” making practice more difficult without a professional network, said William F. Gabrielli, chairman of the psychiatry department at KU Medical Center.

Contributing to the psychiatrist shortage are the loss of Topeka’s Menninger Clinic, a world-renowned psychiatric clinic that moved to Houston in 2003, he said, and changes in a state program that once provided incentives for psychiatry students who promised to work in underserved areas after graduation.

That program has been narrowed by the state to exclude psychiatry and other specialties, Gabrielli said.

Sullivan’s department and other state agencies can meet their mental health needs in the short term by telemedicine, Sullivan said. But in the long run there needs to be an increase in the psychiatrists coming out of KU Medical Center, the state’s only public medical school, he said.

The school currently has about 10 general psychiatry residencies for each year’s class, a small fraction of the total medical residencies there, Gabrielli said. Each psychiatry residence costs the medical center about $100,000.

“People have come to me and asked, ‘Can you add another 10 doctors?’” Gabrielli said. “That would be a huge undertaking.”

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Information from: Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World, http://www.ljworld.com