Tracking the mental health needs of individuals living in underserved areas is a challenge. In 2006 the APA established the Presidential Task Force to Review Psychiatric Needs in Underserved Areas. The main goal of the task force was to identify ways to increase access to psychiatric services in underserved areas around the United States. One of the products of the task force is the online clearinghouse of information developed and collected by the taskforce on topics relevant to mental health care in underserved areas.
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Resources on Telepsychiatry
One of the most effective ways to increase access to psychiatric care for individuals living in underserved areas.
Primary Care Collaborations and Training Projects
HRSA makes grants to organizations to improve and expand health care services for underserved people, focusing on the following program areas: Health Professions | HIV/AIDS | Maternal & Child Health | Office of the Administrator | Primary Health Care/Health Centers | Rural Health | Healthcare Systems | Organ Donation | Clinician Recruitment
Federal Manpower Shortage Areas
The Health and Rehabilitative Services (HRSA)
health professional shortage area designations are based on general HPSA designation criteria, plus additional criteria and guidelines specific to each of the three types of designations, among them mental health, needed to determine locations that are underserved. All Federally Qualified Health Centers and those Rural Health Clinics that provide access to care regardless of ability to pay receive automatic facility HPSA designation.
visa waivers are one mechanism employers in underserved areas can use to attract
psychiatrists. The program enables non-citizen medical graduates to pursue graduate
medical education in the United States. The J-1 visa requires individuals who
have completed their medical training to return to their home country or country
of last origin for a period of at least two years before seeking entry back into
the U.S. through a permanent visa. Waivers of this requirement may be
National Health Service Corps
The NHSC is a Federal government program administered by the U.S. Department of
Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA),
Bureau of Health Workforce that awards scholarships and loan repayment to
primary care providers in NHSC-eligible disciplines. NHSC providers, in turn,
commit to serving for at least two years at an NHSC-approved site located in a Health
Professional Shortage Area (HPSA). Many choose to continue serving at their
sites beyond the initial NHSC service commitment.
Federally Qualified Health Centers (HRSA website)
Federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) include all organizations receiving
grants under Section 330 of the Public Health Service Act (PHS). FQHCs qualify
for enhanced reimbursement from Medicare and Medicaid, as well as other
benefits. FQHCs must serve an underserved area or population, offer a sliding
fee scale, provide comprehensive services, have an ongoing quality assurance
program, and have a governing board of directors. Certain tribal organizations
and FQHC Look-Alikes (an organization that meets PHS Section 330 eligibility
requirements, but does not receive grant funding) also may receive special
Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement.
Resources on Diverse Populations and Disparities