Psychiatry grows in Peoria

DeWayne Bartels

In early July the University of Illinois College of Medicine — Peoria and Methodist Medical Center announced a decline in medical students entering psychiatry has been reversed. That change the institutions said will make a difference in the rising demand for mental health services.

Since 2008, the college of medicine’s psychiatry and behavioral medicine program has expanded from a department of five to 12, now representing one of the largest practices in the area.

In addition, a graduate psychiatry residency program which began in 2011, sponsored by UICOMP and Methodist Medical Center, is attracting physicians from across the country to Peoria to train in psychiatry. By 2014, the program will have 16 resident physicians. They will contribute to the mental health services provided locally - meaning the department will have grown from five to nearly 30 in just six years. Four resident physicians are enrolled with four additional slated to join this month.

“We’ve just hired two more people, and we’re going to be looking for another, but the need is still there,” Dr. Ryan Finkenbine, UICOMP’s chair and professor of psychiatry, said of behavioral health services and the growing department.

To accommodate the growth, both in terms of new physicians and additional services, the College of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine is completing a move into a new outpatient center at Methodist Medical Center’s Atrium Building. About 4,400 square feet of space are devoted to educational and outpatient clinical space designed specifically to meet the needs of patients and referrals.

“The University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria is committed to caring for the whole person, addressing mental health needs as well as physical needs,” said Regional Dean Sara Rusch. “The growth of our psychiatry department and psychiatry residency will help us fill critical mental health needs for patients in Peoria and across the region. Methodist’s leadership and support have been critically important and Dr. Finkenbine has done an exceptional job of putting this together.”

There are about 50,000 psychiatrists in the U.S. currently, according to a UICOMP press release. That number is inadequate to serve all the patients who need help, especially those in rural areas of the country, according to the American Psychiatric Association. Additionally, about half of currently practicing psychiatrists are over the age of 55 and many will soon retire.

A report issued this spring by the American Psychiatry Association said there is a great need for additional medical students to train in psychiatry to meet rising demands. Combined with Methodist, the range of behavioral health services available now includes outpatient, inpatient, psychological testing, counseling, geriatric, forensic, and child and adolescent care.

“We’re excited about our partnership with UICOMP. Methodist has always been a leader in behavioral health and this is one more way we’re meeting the needs of our community,” said Debbie Simon, president and CEO of Methodist Medical Center.

Direct contributions the UICOMP program has provided the Peoria region with include:

• The only academic-based psychiatry consultation service. These services are provided to outside doctors requesting mental health opinions on their patients.

• Fellowship-trained forensic psychiatry services. These are legal evaluations often requested by attorneys and judges.

• One of only two accredited Illinois psychiatry residencies located outside of Chicago.

• Added psychological testing services for head injury and personality disorder evaluations.

Approximately 60 percent of the practicing primary care physicians in the Peoria-area trained in UICOMP programs, according to a UICOMP press release.  Finkenbine said establishing the psychiatry residency is vital to providing for future behavioral health services.

“The new psychiatry residency program continues in this proud tradition, training future psychiatrists, some of whom are likely to stay in the area,” Finkenbine said.