Debates about gun control continue after the elementary school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, but an Iowa psychiatrist says the debate also needs to include mental health. Dr. Walter Duffy is the founder and CEO of Premier Psychiatric in Shenandoah.

Dr. Duffy says we first need to overcome the stigma about those needing mental health care. There’s another challenge, too. “Access is a difficult issue in various places because there’s not enough mental health providers to go around,” Duffy says. “Especially in the Midwest, psychiatry is very depleted, especially if you talk about child and adolescent psychiatry services.”

Duffy says even where service is available, there can be another obstacle — the willingness of a person to get the help they need. “If you do not have people onboard with wanting to obtain services, it’s very difficult in this country to make somebody take services,” Duffy says. “If you look at, like emergency protective custody where the courts take over and say you have to receive services. That’s only for people nowadays who are acutely suicidal or acutely homicidal.”

Duffy says one of the goals of his practice is to provide service to rural areas where services may not be readily available. “We also do tele-health where we go out to rural communities,” Duffy says. “I don’t like it that people have to drive two hours to see us here. I grew up in a farming community. People need the services where they are and there’s a lot of things like tele-health and other technologies going forward where we can make some big in-roads in that area.”

Premier Psychiatric offers tele-health services in Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota. He says they hope to expand in 2013 to reach additional rural areas.

by Chuck Morris, KMA, Shenandoah