Bill Aims to Attract Mental Health Professionals

It's no surprise Texas is lacking in mental health professionals. A statewide survey sheds light on just how dire the situation is: 185 of Texas' 254 counties are without a psychiatrist. Overall, the state is home to just 4.1 psychiatrists per 1,000 patients, only slightly better than Nevada, Mississippi, and Idaho, nationally. Legislative efforts are in the works to try to attract more psychiatrists and other mental health professionals to underserved Texas communities.

Senate Bill 239 by Sen. Charles Schwertner, MD (R-Georgetown), recently passed the Senate. The bill would offer a loan remittance program to medical graduates choosing to practice as mental health professionals in an underserved Texas county. Specifically, the state would cover 10 percent of their loans after their first year in practice and 5 percent more each of the next four years they are in practice in a health professional shortage area. Texas would pay up to $160,000 total. The bill is pending in the House Committee on Public Health.

The North Texas Regional Extension Center commissioned recruiting firm Merritt Hawkins to conduct the survey, titled "The Physician Workforce in Texas: An Examination of Physician Distribution." According to the survey, Texas would need 12,819 additional physicians to meet the national average of 22.6 physicians per 100,000 residents.

Note: The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board is accepting applications from primary care physicians and psychiatrists for the state’s existing Physician Education Loan Repayment Program. The program will cover up to $160,000 in loan repayment for physicians who commit to a practice in an underserved community for four years. Spread the word about this opportunity among residents and fellows who are completing their training, and let them know more information is available on the Physician Education Loan Repayment Program website. Applications for this award cycle are due to the board’s offices by May 31, 2015 

Action, May 15, 2015 (Updated May 18, 2015)

Last Updated On

May 20, 2016

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