Waiting for Care: The Severe Shortage in Missouri's Mental Health Workforce

Rachel Harrison, of rural Dallas County, Missouri, lives with Schizoaffective Disorder and says her psychiatrist works in three counties each week.
Credit Jennifer Moore / KSMU

A critical shortage of mental health workers is making life difficult for both patients and providers across Missouri, particularly in rural areas.   In this series, we hear their stories to learn about the extent of the crisis, and investigate what's being done to address it.  Hear the series by selecting individual stories below.

Jennifer Moore / KSMU

Elementary school kids form a line behind their teacher as they prepare to tour the House chamber in the Missouri Capitol building.

Statistically, about one in every nine of these kids will have a major depressive episode between the ages of 12 and 17, according to the Missouri Department of Mental Health.

State lawmakers, who draft laws that regulate and fund many mental health programs, just wrapped up their 2017 session.

More than half of Missouri’s counties don’t have a licensed psychiatrist, and nearly half don’t have a licensed psychologist.  

Jennifer Moore / KSMU

Until a few years ago, Addie Blankenship saw herself as a relatively healthy mom of three. She didn’t recognize that she was exhibiting symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder—a mental condition that leads to obsessive thoughts and compulsive actions.

“So I would spend hours and hours washing things. Or I would have a thought that something may be on my clothes, so I would change my clothes every time I’d have a bad thought, which sometimes was 10 times a day. Sometimes more,” Blankenship said.

Jennifer Moore / KSMU

Drive down a dirt road in Dallas County, under a thick canopy of walnut trees and over three cattle guards, and you’ll come to Rachel Harrison’s home in Windyville, Missouri.  

A few years ago, Harrison was using her Bachelor’s degree in biology in a hospital laboratory.

“I was a generalist, which means I was in charge of urinalysis, chemistry, special chemistry, hematology, blood banking, coagulation, I think I got it all—phlebotomy, all that kind of stuff,” Harrison said.

But at age 25, she began to hear what sounded like people talking.