© 2024 Ideastream Public Media

1375 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44115
(216) 916-6100 | (877) 399-3307

WKSU is a public media service licensed to Kent State University and operated by Ideastream Public Media.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

NEOMED aims to address mental health care needs through new assistant program

NEOMED has been working to develop and implement a certified mental health assistant program to address a shortfall in care providers.

There’s a mental health crisis in Northeast Ohio, and one of the biggest problems is a lack of access to care, according to Dr. John Langell, president of Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMED).

"We know that there's an epidemic," he said. "It's very clear at any one time, about a quarter of Ohio citizens will have some type of diagnosable mental health disorder. Many are not going to be able to access health care."

He said the shortfall is significant, with a little more than 1,200 practicing psychiatrists in Ohio available to serve the more than 11 million state residents. Langell added he anticipates attrition, with about 800 psychiatrists expected to be practicing six years from now.

He said NEOMED has been working for the past two years to develop and implement a certified mental health assistant program to address the problem. The program would include a year of training in topics such as anatomy and physiology, and another year focused on behavioral health and substance abuse.

Langell said the greatest need is among lower-income people on Medicaid.

"Only about 40% of psychiatrists are seeing our Medicaid population," he said. "So this new group of individuals can spread across the state, working under the supervision of doctors and help to provide access to care — certainly to provide care to Medicaid populations — and to provide care to all of the underserved in our region."

Langell said he's hoping other medical schools in Ohio will adopt the program “so that we can double the number of mental health providers in the state of Ohio within a relatively short period, at a very minimal cost.”

He estimated that tuition would cost approximately $20,000 per student for this new program opposed to between $600,000 and $800,000 in federal funding per student to become a licensed psychiatrist.

"Ultimately, we could envision being able to create somewhere in the neighborhood of 400 to 600 providers over the course of four years," he said.

Another benefit is that these mental health assistants would stay in Ohio under the terms of their license.

"They would only be allowed to practice in behavioral health and substance abuse, working under the license and practice of a supervising physician," Langell said.

The new medical licensure still has a few steps to go before the program can begin, Langell said. First, the Ohio legislature needs to approve it, which he expects to happen by the end of June. After that, Mike Duffey, chancellor of the Ohio Department of Higher Education and the National Higher Learning Commission, must approve it.

Their approval will allow Ohio "to be innovative and really help to address our crisis in a new and novel way," Langell said.

Langell will be discussing this proposal and other programs NEOMED is using to address unmet medical needs Feb. 15 at noon during a talk presented by the Akron Roundtable.

Stephen Langel is a health reporter with Ideastream Public Media's engaged journalism team.