The number of psychiatrists, psychologists, licensed clinical social workers, counselors, marriage and family therapists, and advanced practice nurses specializing in mental health care per 100,000 population in 2018. Displayed by providers per 100,000 residents.
The ease of ability to seek care from a healthcare professional specializing in treating and addressing our emotional, psychological, and social well-being.
Based on the 2018 data, Oklahoma ranks 12 (of 50) for number of providers. Massachusetts reports the highest density at 590.9 per 100,000 residents while Alabama reports 92.6.
Women are more likely to access mental healthcare. However, healthcare needs are not zero-sum. Societal pressures and stigma also play a role in discouraging women from seeking support.
These pressures can be rooted further within distinct cultural or societal communities. Racial minorities are more likely to not seek mental health care because of perceptions and fear, racism and discrimination, cultural differences, and language barriers . LGBTQ+ individuals face unique obstacles as well. Despite indications that LGBTQ+ people often have increased need for mental healthcare than the general population, the community’s access is limited due to fear stemming from family, social circles, and encountering unaccepting providers .
As with all Oklahomans, women’s access to mental health care is substantially impacted by distance to providers and the ability to pay. Clinician density in Oklahoma follows the same pattern across all fields, including mental health; the vast majority are in the Oklahoma City and Tulsa metro areas. While access has rapidly expanded in recent years with the explosion in telehealth, location and cost barriers persist. Video calls require a strong and stable internet connection, and insurance does not always cover telehealth options.
While qualifying postpartum women can access and remain on Medicaid (called SoonerCare in Oklahoma) for one year after giving birth, the time limit places an expiration date on when their healthcare coverage will cease. At the end of that time, women experiencing postpartum depression or anxiety will lose their insurer.
Experts warn figures like these can be misleading. Density reports as featured here are calculated using directories provided by private and public insurers and, in some instances, online directories. Many states, including Oklahoma in 2018, did not require provider repositories be updated regularly to reflect accurate provider information. The term “ghost networks” was coined to describe the phenomenon of provider networks riddled with clinicians who were retired, changed employers, changed accepted insurance, stopped practicing, or even were deceased.
In 2023, Oklahoma passed SB442 which requires public and private insurers to refresh their clinician directories every 60 days. Similar legislation has been introduced and adopted in other states. The United States Senate Finance Committee held hearings in 2023 on ghost networks, however, and national legislation did not advance .
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