Mental health service professionals are in short supply throughout the world, and that also holds true for Guam, as the Guam Behavioral Health and Wellness Center knows.

The agency had three psychiatrists on board, but one is set to retire today. 

This psychiatrist was formerly retired from the government but came back to serve in a part-time capacity. 

The ideal number of psychiatrists for GBHWC would be five, including psychiatrists who would provide services through remote consultations by video or telehealth. To help meet that need and other staffing needs, the agency is constantly recruiting. 

There is always a need for more psychiatrists at GBHWC, particularly with COVID-19 tripling the agency's registry, according to Director Theresa Arriola.

"I just got off a five-day national mental health conference ... and the shortage of behavioral health professionals is nationwide and actually worldwide. So we're all trying to figure out what do we do when there is going to be a shrinking number of psychiatrists who are available," Arriola said. 

Traveling psychiatrists considered

"We're looking at bringing in ... traveling psychiatrists. We've of course pivoted (toward) telehealth. So, the (traditional, in-person psychiatrist) is not going to be the wave of the future. We're going to see services provided with a multiple-pronged approach for psychiatric mental health services," Arriola said. "There's just not enough psychiatrists in the world."

The next best thing to a psychiatrist would be a medical doctor who will determine treatment in partnership with a psychologist or psychiatric nurse practitioner, she added.

But for now, the agency will have two remaining psychiatrists along with the other mental health professionals serving at GBHWC, who include medical doctors and psychiatric nurse practitioners.

Arriola is set to interview another medical doctor today.

With assistance from the Guam Memorial Hospital Authority, the agency has engaged in the recruitment of traveling psychiatrists and is looking at conducting interviews in the next couple of weeks, according to Arriola. By next year, the GBHWC team is also expected to welcome an in-person psychiatrist on board, she added.

There are several off-island psychiatric nurse practitioners with prescription-writing authority coming on board in the next two weeks, she added.


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