Earlier this week, The Telegraph reported on the shortage of psychiatrists in Macon. Currently, 17 board-certified psychiatrists serve the more than 150,000 residents of Bibb County, as well as Middle Georgians in other neighboring counties with even fewer providers of psychiatric care.
In light of our reporting on the lack of psychiatrists in the area, a reader asked us to look into alternative mental health resources available in the region.
Besides psychiatrists, other mental health professionals can offer differing levels of care, said Jason Hobbs, a licensed clinical social worker at Middle Georgia Counseling and Testing in Centerville. While psychiatrists are most likely to intervene in crisis situations, psychologists, clinical social workers, licensed professional counselors, and licensed marriage and family therapists can also provide mental health care.
Hobbs, who works at a private outpatient group practice, said options for outpatient care are often determined based on a patient’s ability to pay for services.
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“If you have insurance and can pay for services, then you’ll find, you know, a fair amount of outpatient providers such as myself,” he said. “Some of them are in solo practices; some of them are in group practices.”
But when patients can’t afford private care, Hobbs said, their options are more limited. Uninsured patients, he said, often turn to community providers, such as River Edge Behavioral Health. River Edge provides a range of mental health services to more than 10,000 Georgia residents each year, said Ashley Allen, River Edge’s director of Macon-Bibb County and Monroe County Services.
At River Edge, patients can receive both inpatient and outpatient therapy, in addition to employment counseling, case management assistance, addiction treatment and multiple other forms of support. As a not-for-profit organization, River Edge cares for some of the neediest residents in the state.
“We don’t turn anybody away for financial reasons,” Allen said. “So, we’re fortunate to be able to provide services regardless of someone’s insurance status. So, you know, we make mental health care very accessible to the community.”
Those in need of mental health counseling can also turn to the Mercer Family Therapy Center, which calculates the cost of care on a sliding-fee scale based on the individual’s income. According to the center’s website, fees range from $5 to $65, but no patients are denied treatment due to an inability to pay.
In addition, several local nonprofit organizations offer mental health resources. The Methodist Home for Children and Youth provides behavioral and mental health therapy for Middle Georgia residents through its Lighthouse for Families Counseling Program. Unlike many private outpatient providers, the center accepts both Medicaid and PeachState, as well as multiple other insurance providers.
New Dawn Counseling Center also offers mental health care for both individuals and groups in need. According to its website, the center accepts Medicaid and private insurance, but it also provides competitive prices for uninsured patients who must pay out of pocket.
Allen said mental health resources play a vital role in Macon because they keep the community healthy and thriving.
“We’ve all been touched by mental health challenges in one way or another,” she said. “So just, I think the prevalence alone shows that there is a great need for mental health services.”
Samantha Max is a Report for America corps member and reports for The Telegraph with support from the News/CoLab at Arizona State University. Follow her on Facebook at facebook.com/samantha.max.9 and on Twitter @samanthaellimax. Learn more about Report for America at www.reportforamerica.org.