Psychiatry in Alabama

This subject is a very familiar one within my blog but I write about things I know and this particular subject is one I’ve been exposed to every weekday for years, so I know a little bit about it. I think it is an important subject and should be talked about more often, but I seem to be one of very few people willing to openly discuss mental health in my local area. However, we have a problem, and the problem seems to only be getting worse.

The internet, in my opinion, is both a blessing and a curse. With the ease of use and access to tools we never before imagined possible, half of my life has been engineered to adapt to these technological advances and increasing speeds. The problem is that many people in my neck of the woods have resisted these advances for decades. But thanks to passing generations, and with most processes becoming automated, common people are basically forced to adapt or opt out of particpating altogether. As a result, we have seen more and more (for lack of a more accurate term) backwoods people either learning how to use the internet, or learning how to make meth.

We have also seen how this has impacted society over time- on any level you prefer to measure. But for the sake of my argument, I’m keeping it local– and appropriately so, as I’ve been incessantly encouraged to shop, eat, listen and live my life locally within the confines of this triangular county for as long as I can remember. That alone can drive a person to the brink of insanity- as I begrudgingly learned during the God forsaken pandemic.

The impacts of social media and the increasing access to the world wide web has done a number on the locals. On one hand, it’s driven people to a level of crazy I didn’t think possible. On the other, a lot of people are getting a deeper understanding of how truly important it is to care for your mind, and not only that- but also that there is no shame in doing so. The stigma around mental healthcare is beginning to dissipate around here and that gives me hope.

I think about the year I was going door to door to offer flyers for a clinic, and the confused, eye roll, or otherwise brutal reactions I received, and compare that to my day today, when the phone endlessly rang as people on the other end were biting their nails, praying for an appointment. Unfortunately, offline access and resources are incredibly limited, and it’s wearing me the fuck out.

I’ve worked in patient access and as a front desk receptionist for three different mental healthcare facilities across the Tennessee Valley for basically a decade. I have helped two of those companies in marketing, intake coordination, scheduling, insurance verification, and more. I have seen first hand how difficult it is for a person to get on a schedule to see a provider. I have seen the quick turn arounds of providers within facilities. I have witnessed countless patients come and go based on their levels of income or whether they were able to have access to insurance. And, as I mentioned yesterday, I have received news of suicide more times than I can count. My heart has been broken on a regular basis for a very long time, and my God- something needs to change.

My plea and prayer is that anyone who works in the field of Psychiatry and has a heart and maybe a nugget of bravery take a moment to examine the dire need of prescribing providers within the sick, sad state of Alabama. Every single day I see reports of child rape and abuse, domestic violence, drug convictions, murder, and so forth. I realize that it is everywhere, but these are the lines that are published on a daily basis- these are the stories that are shared. Each day that passes, I count higher numbers of intakes that I conducted. People are trying to take care of their psyche and the wait time to see a provider is up to nearly three months into the future.

Locally, we have two facilities that house M.D.’s who are able to write prescriptions for psychiatric medications. Our ever expanding population is making it more and more difficult for low income families to have any mental health access at all because many are unable to make the forty-five minute drive north or south to Huntsville or Birmingham. So they feel literally stuck, with no one to turn to. This is disastrous for a growing town. Jobs have increased dramatically, which is great, but access to schools, housing, and medical needs have not. It is creating great problems for facilities like that in which I answer phones for. It is gut wrenching to me when I have to inform someone seeking help that, well, sorry- we can’t take your case. And here’s the only other number I can give you to try elsewhere. And good luck, because their turnover is atrocious because they don’t get paid shit.

If you are qualified and willing to take on a great challenge, Alabama needs a helping hand that can write drug names on prescription pads.

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