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Continued: In Minnesota, few rural mental health specialists carry a heavy load

  • Article by: JOHN LUNDY , Duluth News Tribune
  • Last update: July 6, 2013 - 12:05 AM

There's a similar situation down the road in the mental-health section at Fairview University Medical Center-Mesabi in Hibbing. Paula Pennington, the hospital's manager of behavioral health, said the center's 19 acute inpatient beds are full most of the time, but the unit is amply staffed. However, there are no services for children and adolescents.

With psychiatrists overtaxed, some of the burden shifts back to primary care, said Dr. James Hartert, chief medical officer for Fairview-Mesabi. But their patients are complex and require potent medications.

"I think our doctors and advanced-practice nurses do a great job but clearly could be aided by a greater supply and access to people formally trained in psychiatry," Hartert said.

Pajari and Jarvis only treat people with the most serious mental illnesses, leaving the rest for the family doctors, Pajari said.

"We only get 10 to 15 percent of people with emotional problems," she said. "But the numbers are still very large."

Outside of Virginia and Hibbing, Iron Range residents travel to Duluth, Grand Rapids and even International Falls for psychiatric care, Tovar and Pajari said.

They'd welcome competition closer to home.

"We'd be happy to have them take about half of these people off our hands," Pajari said.

This is an AP Member Exchange shared by the Duluth News Tribune

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