Dr. Garima Singh’s professional wish list has just one item: instant access for anyone who needs mental health care. The three-time board certified psychiatrist who specializes in care for autism and developmental delays works toward that goal through her roles at Burrell Behavioral Health and University of Missouri-Columbia.
And the need could not be greater.
“With COVID, we know 60% of our people are struggling with mental health problems,” Singh, 38, says of both adults and children.
“The majority of kids, we have taken away from their structured school setting,” she says. “We have taken away from their social interaction – their biggest support system. Kids are struggling. The way it comes out is tantrums, meltdowns, fights, anger outbursts, emotional outbursts. I have more and more families coming to me.”
A result of the COVID-19 pandemic was the necessary expansion of care through telehealth, Singh says.
“We can help our people where they are,” says Singh, who is based in Burrell’s Columbia office.
Before the pandemic, 10%-15% of Burrell’s visits were conducted virtually; now that’s 70%-85%, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting. Singh says Burrell also has shortened wait times by expanding its providers to 50 from 30 since she joined Burrell in 2018. But the demand is still not met. That’s why she says her role in training the next generation of psychiatrists is critical.
“That’s where the mentors and teachers play a role,” she says. “I am interested in autism, for a big part, because of my mentor. That became my passion seeing all the great work and the need.”
She says early intervention is key for kids with autism or mental health disorders. Singh’s even involved in research studying the mental health needs in infants and postpartum women. And that’s also why she’s part of the team behind Mizzou’s Child Psych Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes program.
“Because there is so much shortage of child psychiatrists, we’re trying to train our primary care providers so they feel empowered and trained to see those kids who can’t find a child psychiatrist,” she says.
The six-month Child Psych ECHO program trains providers though two monthly video conferences.
Singh says she’s seen advances in detection and awareness of autism since she emigrated from India in 2009 from medical school. Autism once was viewed as a simple intellectual disorder, but now more people understand the disorder presents itself on a wide spectrum.
“It’s all about increasing that knowledge, having our businesses more equipped so our youth with autism can go and work,” she says.
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