On Wednesday April 9th, 2014, Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Ranking Member Richard Burr (R-NC) convened a hearing of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions; Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging in order address the lack of availability of primary care access and the challenges that arise in creating an effective workforce in the medical field of primary healthcare.
The panelists spoke of the harsh conditions and limited access to primary healthcare that many Americans living in parts of the United States that are suffering from shortages of primary care providers are faced with, as many patients are forced to travel long distances, and stand day and night in long lines in order to receive basic health care.
In order to begin confronting these serious issues in the American healthcare system, Senior Vice President and Clinical Director of the Connecticut-based Community Health Center, Incorporated Dr. Margaret Flinter posed three important questions that need to be addressed: “First: who wants to be a primary care provider? And what must we do, now, to support those who make the affirmative commitment to become primary care providers?” because, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges, “the overall shortage [of healthcare providers] will be approximately 130,6000 by 2025.” The second question addressed by Flinter is “How do we attract those providers in underserved areas, both rural and urban, to care for our most vulnerable populations?” and “Third: just as important: How do we retain these talented, brilliant and committed individuals in community health centers over the long haul?”
These three questions and the solutions provided may not appear to be directly related to mental health care. However, ensuring that American citizens have access to primary health care is an integral step in ensuring that the underserved communities in both rural and urban areas receive the appropriate treatments for mental health conditions. It is vital for primary care and mental health providers to work together to recognize the correlation between physical and mental conditions, and to development a treatment plan tailored to a patient’s specific needs.