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There’s a shortage of child psychiatrists, and kids are hurting

Pediatrician Karen Rhea said she found it “gut-wrenching” to see young people in psychiatric crisis: a teen who overdosed, the one with mental illness who landed in jail, the high school senior who tried to kill herself by crashing her car. With a population of about 20,000 then, Franklin, Tenn., where she practiced, had no child and adolescent psychiatrists, so Rhea spent long hours searching for inpatient care, phoning judges, looking for mental-health specialists in Nashville 20 miles away.

Sometimes her efforts made a difference. The suicide survivor thrived in therapy. She wrote a note to Rhea, thanking her for saving her life.

Eventually, Rhea became convinced she could better serve patients as a child and adolescent psychiatrist and returned to medical school. Now she is chief medical officer of Centerstone, one of the largest community mental health providers in Tennessee.


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