State and Local Organizations Address Lack of Mental Health Resources in CO
COLORADO SPRINGS — State legislatures are investing heavily in the mental health of Coloradans. Right now they are deciding how to spend $450,000,000 in federal COVID-19 relief funds.
News5 spoke with Dr. Mark Mayfield, founder and CEO of Mayfield Counseling Centers, located in Colorado Springs. He explained how some of that money could benefit mental health professionals and clients seeking help.
Dr. Mayfield says that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for services has increased, and Colorado is also experiencing a huge shortage of mental health professionals. This is where this funding can help.
“We’ve always seen a labor shortage in Colorado from a mental health perspective. In my office, for the first time in our history, we have a waiting list. We’ve always been proud to answer the phone and have people scheduled that same week or within seven days, and we can’t do it anymore because of the need. Our phone is ringing nonstop,” said Dr. Mayfield, who mentioned that it was mainly due to the lack of space in his office not allowing him to hire more people.
Dr. Mayfield also referenced the new advisory from the US Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, to highlight the urgent need to address the youth mental health crisis in the country. It was released on December 7.
According to Mental Health America, Colorado also has the highest rate of mental illness among adults and the lowest access to care in the entire country.
“I think it’s great that we’re bringing this to our attention. I just want people to understand that this need is only going to grow, so if we can figure out how to move forward in a positive way now, that sets the stage for success,” said Dr. Mayfield.
According to a Colorado News Collaborative article and survey, nearly 40% of Coloradans also live in an area where there is a shortage of behavioral health workers. The article also said that since the pandemic hit, youth mental health emergency room visits have jumped 70% and calls to statewide crisis hotlines have increased by 70%. 40%.
Federal assistance of $450 million could help solve some of these problems.
“There must be a part of the state that says we see you, we appreciate you, you’ve really helped a lot of people through this pandemic, and we want to find ways to take care of you,” said the Dr Mayfield. . “I’m really grateful for this funding and I’m really grateful to our governor and government for really putting behavioral health at the forefront of our needs. I think they understand the issues we face.”
Dr Mayfield says being a mental health professional can be a very stressful job, and a job many people are now quitting. His small office schedules between 18,000 and 20,000 appointments a year and takes nearly 50 phone calls a week. But one of the biggest issues facing providers, he says, is mental health parity.
“As mental health care providers, we are not reimbursed equally by different health care providers, who have similar training and experience. So when one health care provider can be reimbursed at $120 for a session, we get reimbursed at $60,” Dr. Mayfield said. “We’ve had a lot of people in this profession who have stopped taking Medicaid because Medicaid doesn’t reimburse well in this state. They’re losing providers left and right because they can’t sustain a business. That 450 million dollars could really help improve access and then care for mental health providers.”
Dr. Mayfield also serves on the Colorado Counseling Association as president-elect. He says the board is working to get a mental health parity bill introduced. He mentioned that for mental health professionals to care for clients, staff must also be cared for.
“I love what we do and everyone here loves what we do. Everyone I talk to loves it. It’s just that there are these challenges that we face,” said Dr Mayfield . “It’s just part of the game and figuring out how to be an advocate and a voice for the profession.”
Ideas are also shared on providing incentives to grow the working group. For example, offering opportunities from high school and college like job fairs and job shadowing.
For more information on Mayfield counseling centers click here.