Mental health providers can’t keep up with growing demand

Local News

DENVER (KDVR) — Mental health providers are noticing an increase in demand for services, far beyond what they experienced at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A recent survey from the National Council for Mental Wellbeing found 78% of behavioral health organizations reported seeing an increase in demand over the past three months. A majority said their waitlists are growing and nearly all respondents said they’re having trouble recruiting employees.

“We’re trying to see as many people as we can, but I don’t see it slowing down,” said Dr. Liz Chamberlain, a licensed psychologist at the CU Anschutz Health and Wellness Center.

Chamberlain said the shift from living in isolation to returning to normal life has placed a strain on some people.

“We’re adjusting again to being in school. We’re adjusting to worrying about our health. There’s a lot of health anxiety — a lot of worry about, am I still going to get COVID? Am I going to get something else?” Chamberlain said.

She said patients are also facing major life challenges that stem from the pandemic.

“I think a lot of people are even changing jobs and changing careers. It’s really turned everything on its head, and we’re not exactly sure how to navigate it,” Chamberlain said.

Mental health providers are working to keep up with the growing demand. Dr. Neill Epperson, chair of psychiatry at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus, said the department is actively hiring across positions.

“We need more psychiatrists. We need more licensed psychologists, licensed clinical social workers or professional counselors,” Epperson said.

Epperson said the department was growing rapidly before the pandemic began, but their patient volume has increased 65% in just the past year.

Chamberlain said providers are getting creative in order to handle the increased demand.

“A lot of us are trying to make sure we see people emergently, like shorter sessions,” Chamberlain said. “Some people may need to be able to take a break for a while if they’ve met some initial goals, if they’re doing better and if they’re stable so that we can see more people.”

For those struggling to find an appointment, Chamberlain recommends using free mental health resources:

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