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In the wake of COVID-19, mental health providers have said the demand for mental health services exceeds the supply of professionals in Wisconsin. The shortage has increased wait times for patients and left general practice doctors to fill in the coverage gaps. 

This trend predates the pandemic. According to data from 2019, 52 of the state’s 72 counties were designated as Health Professional Shortage Areas, or HPSAs, for mental health. To meet the federal HPSA requirements, an area’s population must have a individual-psychiatrist ratio of 20,000: 1 or higher and lack access to professionals in neighboring areas.

In 2019, Wisconsin’s average psychiatrist-individual ratio was 490:1, while the nation’s top state ratio was 290:1. 

As a result of the pandemic, the Wisconsin Office of Children’s Mental Health predicts there will be a sharp increase in the number of providers needed in coming years.

This Fact Brief is responsive to conversations such as this one.


Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: COVID-19 has only worsened a mental health crisis. A Carroll University program wants to put people to work to help.

Wisconsin Department Of Health Services: Number of Psychiatrist FTEs Needed to Remove Shortages for the Resident Population

Wisconsin Office of Children’s Mental Health: Fact Sheet Addressing Shortages in the Mental Health Workforce

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Erin Gretzinger / Wisconsin WatchReporting Intern

Erin Gretzinger joined Wisconsin Watch as a reporting intern in May 2022. She is a journalism and French major at UW-Madison and will graduate in spring 2023. Erin previously worked for the Wisconsin State Journal as a reporting intern and served as the 2021-22 editor-in-chief at The Badger Herald. She is a recipient of the Jon Wolman Scholarship, the Sigrid Schultz Scholarship and the Joseph Sicherman Award Fund for her academic and reporting work.