More Mental Health Patients | VideoMichelle San Miguel | 6/15/2012
The number of patients referred to Medcenter One`s in-patient psychiatric unit from medical centers west of Minot has grown by 17 percent since 2011.
"We have just continued to grow in terms of more and more people coming into the clinic and into the hospital over the past five years. At this point all the projections are just continued growth," said Medcenter One Psychiatrist Dr. Cheryl Huber.
More patients are coming to the emergency room with signs of mental illness. Since just last year the number of patients admitted with psychosis as their primary diagnosis has more than doubled.
"The major growth that we`ve seen in people coming would be psychosis, or thought disorders where they`re experiencing delusions or hallucinations of any number of reasons and then drug and alcohol issues," Huber said.
The biggest challenge remains recruiting more mental health professionals to North Dakota. That`s why the Department of Human Services is looking to telepsychiatry as a solution, where a patient and a psychiatrist would interact with each other through a computer from miles away.
Telepsychiatry may sound impersonal, but mental health professionals say it`s already working in places like Dickinson.
"The psychiatrist does not have to be there to provide effective service. The patient`s getting good service as long as they`re there to consult even if it is through telepsychiatry," said Alex Schweitzer with the North Dakota Department of Human Services.
Through this system, psychiatrists would be able to review cases and order medication for patients. Schweitzer says telepsychiatry could even be the answer to reopening Mercy Medical Center`s in-patient psychiatric unit.
Employees at the Department of Human Services are tracking how the oil boom is affecting health needs in oil country, but they say it`s still too early in their study to know the effects.