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Psychiatrists play an important role in the mental health care treatment continuum, primarily providing biological and somatic approaches to treatment such as prescribing antipsychotics. This focus on biological and somatic approaches to mental illness is largely a result of a shortage of health care professionals who provide these services. Whether a geographical area has an adequate number of psychiatrists is central to health system planning and proving adequate access to services for consumers.

Estimates for the general need for psychiatrists range from 3.9 per 100,000 to 15.9 per 100,000 population. The Health Resource and Services Administration (HRSA) considers an adequate number of psychiatrists to be one per 30,000 population, which is about 3.3 psychiatrists per 100,000 population. The discrepancy in these different rates is attributed partially to the rise of managed care—15.9 psychiatrists per 100,000 is modeled on a fee-for-service (FFS) system. Health care reimbursement models that take into account managed care generally suggest numbers closer to the lower range—approximately 3.8 to 4.8 per 100,000. Still, other experts have estimated the need to be at 5.7, 7.2, and 10.0 per 100,000. For the purpose of this report, our analysis compares state by state numbers to the lower threshold (3.9) to the middle threshold (7.2), and the highest threshold (15.9).

Nationally, there is a total of 13.5 psychiatrists per 100,000 population. At the state level, there is considerable variation in the number of psychiatrists per 100,000 population. The number ranges from 4.5 psychiatrists per 100,000 population in Idaho, to 43.2 psychiatrists per 100,000 in Washington, D.C.

This report examines the number of psychiatrists working across the country, and includes information on:

  • The total number of psychiatrists operating in the U.S. by state
  • The trend in the total number of psychiatrists per 100,000 population over time
  • The number of child psychiatrists per 100,000 population
  • Trends in the number of child psychiatrists over time

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