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Does Hawaii Really Need More Psychologists?

The state Legislature in the past year has talked about mental health constantly and is trying to find ways to solve it, especially with us joining the Psychology Interjurisdictional Compact so Hawaii can have more psychologists.

This did not come out of nowhere; after the pandemic, recent trends in populations in Hawaii, and disasters that have happened within the past few months, there has been a need to alleviate the mental health crisis.

In February 2021, the National Alliance on Mental Illness stated that one in five U.S. adults experience mental illness, 187,000 adults in Hawaii have a mental health condition, and more than half of people did not receive any treatment the last year. The first thought many people bring up is that there is a need for more psychologists, which is true.

Hawaii needs to fill those gaps as quickly as possible. However, there is something else that can be done.

Therapy and psychiatry are needed and should be accessible. However, the first thing to work on is to make sure that our homes and communities are made with everyone in mind before we can talk about having more psychologists in Hawaii.

Screenshot from the Hawaii State Fact Sheet, National Alliance on Mental Illness.

To do this, we need to create more home and community-based services. Though the list is long, these services are not limited to anyone and can be helpful for everyone.

Two types of services can be provided: health services and human services, which can either provide one, the other, or both.

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, these are cost-effective, give a sense of familiarity, and provide counseling or clergy.

Of course, there is no denying that it has some downsides, such as not being able to have access to these resources 24/7 or that family members need to be active to help make this actually work, but that will lower the gaps and need for psychologists and would definitely safe quite a lot of money in the long run.

No one should be isolated or feel unwanted, and we as a society should make sure everyone is included.

But this is no excuse to cut the slack on filling the need for more psychologists. My personal experience trying to get critical mental health services while waiting in the emergency room, the psych ward was full, so they had to let me go.

Screenshot from the Hawaii State Fact Sheet, National Alliance on Mental Illness.

This is where psychologists come into play, where if home and community-based services do not work, psychologists will be able to help with issues that some services may not be able to fill. To get more psychologists, the state and city governments need to create more incentives for Hawaiians and kamaaina to get their degrees and become certified.

One way the state can do this is by giving them more opportunities in any of the UH campuses or other Hawaii colleges to provide the scholarships, stipends, and grants needed to get their degree related to psychology.

This perspective of where to prioritize first will definitely go a long way to making sure the mental health crisis is solved. What is needed is home and community-based services first, then psychologists next, and emergency rooms and psych wards being a last resort.

We do not want to cut the funding or resources of any of these areas, but what is needed is understanding what is most effective first.

Source : CivilBeat