Shortage of Child Psychiatrists

Several weeks ago I was incredibly saddened by the news from a colleague and dear friend of mine, also a Duke child psychiatrist, that one of our mentors had passed away in his mid-80’s. He meant so much to me, I wish to mention and memorialize his name in my own little way in this humble esoteric blog. He was Dr. Marc (Marcelino) Amaya (with ‘Amaya y Rosas’ being his full last name).

He was one of the original child psychiatrists in a group that came down to Durham NC from Northeastern training centers to help start the department and to staff it. The other faculty was as were in all major medical centers of the last 50 years, superb instructors and fantastic clinicians that often left us rookies with our veritable mouths open at their insights.

Dr. Amaya started a complete children’s psychiatric hospital I think in the early or mid-1960’s to house what Duke could not offer on its grounds because it was private and not state affiliated and for funding issues. The Children’s Psychiatric Institute (CPI) was a fabulous training center on the level of such other state hospital affiliated and also lesser known than the more celebrated upper crust programs, but every bit as good as any of the Ivy League (Boston, NYC, Philly, etc.) centers such as the late and venerated Dr. Ralph Rabinovich of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. CPI has a short term and long term outpatient clinic, a family therapy program that was expanded by this writer and one of the veteran incredibly skilled social workers at CPI, Anne K. Parrish ACSW, LCSW, into a training program for child mental health trainees from Duke and UNC-Chapel Hill medical and graduate schools. Dr. Amaya was a superb supervisor and I always learned untold concepts, techniques, and gems at his feet so to speak. I also accompanied him to the testify in the Golden Days of Psychiatry and Psychology in this country to testify annually before the NC General Assembly (state legislature) as we would advocate for our state funded programs, but also for the private inpatient and outpatient programs at Duke and UNC! So there we would be harassing clinically and statistically the legislators (who in those days seemed to listen better..no matter their party affiliation). It was quite ironic but demonstrated the dedication that Dr. Amaya had to the delivery of mental health services to ALL children of the state and to any agency, institution, training program that was trying to provide such. His program was not his first concern in the statewide scheme of things, it was just another important part of the overall system of resources he foresaw for the state decades before some of them came into existence. He was a short man with a lyrical Hispanic accent that I as a Southwesterner could listen all day long and always feel like, when I was with him, I was a little bit ‘back home’ in the Southwest.”

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Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act Passed the House of Representatives

I have long awaited this juncture, the partial passage of the most significant, and hopefully helpful federal mental health reform legislation in this country since President Kennedy’s 1963 Community Mental Health Center Act, the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act,” or HR 2646. [I would encourage readers to actually follow the link to the text of the bill and give it a studied read]. Politics is ordinarily as an area I steer away from in my public blog writings as for the last 30 years it has been nothing more than a hopeless, dirty, pointless and non-productive quagmire that until recently has held no real relationship to the issues dear to this effort’s mental health professional’s heart.

But the time has come to start commenting upon, openly following in [I hope] responsible medical journalistic fashion, the life, future and fruits and/or unintended consequences of the slow legislative efforts and developments of years of failed political/legislative efforts to repair our long broken mental health care delivery system, both public and private. The Helping Families Crisis Act now appears to be the first piece of legislation with at least a reasonable potential to effect a vast amount of good effort in the right directions and quarters. One of the many recent news articles, printed over the last year or so to keep this bill alive in the public’s mind, prompted my entering into the national discussion regarding this legislation and its significance. I had held off doing so as for months it has appeared that it would be lost in the polarization of the political parties of the last four Presidential terms or buried/ignored because of lack of support since it concerned “mental health issues,” and all their complexities that at time legislators seems to avoid like the plague. But now it has recently “made it over the top,” as it were and appears destined for passage by the Senate in the near fall. In fact, it has seemed to gain a sort of hallowed status as one of those bills that the pols finally realize they had better jump on to the bandwagon rather than ignore any longer. And politically speaking, it has greatly helped that two brave Republican Congressman have fought hard for this legislation and made it politically acceptable to even most extremists to support.”

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