Kimberly Young, Hillside assistant medical director, Dr. Adam Silberman, Hillside medical director, and Dr. Karyn Korsah, resident at Morehouse School of Medicine, on the campus of Hillside, a behavioral treatment center in Atlanta.
March 24th, 2022
The Need for Mental Health Services
Hillside has been working since 1888 to provide quality mental health treatment to children and teens in Atlanta neighborhoods. Since the onset of the pandemic, we have noticed an increase in the waitlist for mental health services. The kids receiving treatment have intensified symptoms, and many have attempted to harm themselves.
“These kiddos are desperate,” says Dr. Adam Silberman, Hillside’s medical director. “They’ve been on God knows how many medication regimens and through different providers, and they’re sicker than ever before, and we try to put the pieces together as much as we can in the time we’re allotted, based on insurance, which doesn’t provide a lot.”
Georgia’s demand for increased mental health resources is rising despite its lack of providers. According to a 2021 report published by Mental Health America of Georgia (MHA), Georgia ranks last among the best states to receive mental health services.
In January, a proposed act to completely restructure the mental health system began making its way through the state’s legislature. It was approved as of March 30th. Another ongoing challenge is bringing providers such as therapists and psychiatrists to the state and encouraging them to stay.
The pandemic has made staffing more challenging than ever. Reform is sorely overdue, according to a psychiatric nurse practitioner at Hillside, Kimberly Young.
“The world outside of here is also very dark, and people are struggling and then we come here every day, and so it’s definitely taking a toll on our staff,” Young says. “It’s taken a toll on all of us, and our passion continues to bring us back. But our nursing staff, our residential staff, our therapists, every department has been hit with resignations.”
A significant reason for these hiring challenges could be the inadequate pay mental health care workers receive compared to those of other specialties. There is an absence of parity within the field, and costs associated with behavioral health are often not covered by insurance providers in the same way as those associated with physical health.
This lack of parity results in poor pay for providers, causing many medical students to pursue other specialties.
Constant battles with insurance companies have made Atlanta providers increasingly frustrated. Many have stopped accepting insurance altogether, and fewer allow Medicaid.
“When our care is dictated by insurance and somebody who has never met the patient they’re working with, that leads to a lot of burnout, and that’s not why most of us got into medicine,” Silberman says.
Legislators and health care advocates believe that making parity a requirement and enforcing it through the newly approved bill will expand Georgia residents’ access to mental health care.
While change won’t happen overnight, we’re working hard at Hillside to increase awareness of the need for mental health services.