August 23, 2007

So what's up with our access to anti-depressants?

A woman e-mailed me this morning after reading my last post and said that she's really suffering and needs to see a psychiatrist. She gave birth to her baby after a very traumatic delivery about 6 weeks ago and she's been experiencing some troubling OCD symptoms, like obsessive hand-washing. The problem is that she has no insurance and limited funds, so when she called a psychiatrist that she found in her phone book and was told that it would cost her $225 an hour to see him, she gave up. So I started researching free and low-cost psychiatric resources in her state when this comment appeared on my blog from Moxie Mom:

"I wonder if the inconsistency stems from the availability of seeing a shrink that is affordable since many, many, people have terrible health care. It's much easier for a women to see her PCP (primary care physician) than it might be to see a shrink in that case. Of course, I agree with all of your comments: a shrink would be the best choice. Believe it or not, I have pretty good health care but I see a psychologist and get my drugs from my PCP. All the real psychiatrists wouldn't call me back, even after I left several messages. I called 5 of them. Talk about an eye-opener. Seems to me, all levels of health care providers need to start stepping up their game and thinking outside their box."

Moxie Mom's comment really made me think. I know that in my city, Phoenix, there are very, very few psychiatrists and when you actually find one who happens to be taking new patients, the wait could be as long as 3-6 months. It's ridiculous. There's no way a woman suffering from PPD, not to mention her baby, can wait that long. I could rant about this for hours....

But I still had to figure out how to help this poor woman with no health insurance.... so I'll rant about the general lack of psychiatric care later. I did find a state-funded mental health program in her state that had several psychiatric clinics spread throughout her county. At the clinics, she would be able to have access to either a psychiatrist or a psychiatric nurse practitioner to receive medication if necessary, and also a psychologist for talk therapy. If she qualified all of the services and meds would be free, but even if she didn't qualify financially, she would still receive everything at a 40-60% discount compared to private practices.

That was encouraging and I hope to hear back from her after she finds the support she needs. Moxie Mom, thanks for sharing your thoughts!


Moxie Mom said...

You're welcome. And thank you for this wonderful site!

passing as myself said...

Great point about the lack of accessible mental health care!

I also wanted to point out that some psychiatrists can be even worse than getting meds from a PCP. Many are content to over-medicate and focus on the meds and not include any talk therapy.

The best mental health care I ever got was from a psychologist. When I told her I thought I needed drugs, she talked over all the options with me and then called my PCP to ask her to write the scrip. Then she and I could focus our energy on cognitive-behavioral therapy.

More than one psychiatrist has prescribed drugs to me without bothering to give me options or explain why they thought their pick was best.

Kristin said...

That's just so frustrating. I too have had the experience of having a psychiatrist write me a script for meds. after only a handful of minutes into the appointment.
I've found the best care from a psychiatric nurse practitioner who actually counsels her patients in addition to prescribing medication. So by going to her in addition to my psychologist, I feel like I've totally got my bases covered. But... when you can't find a psychiatrist or nurse practitioner who actually spends time listening and talking with you, what do you do??? It sounds like you've found a great option with your psychologist!!