APPLETON - Doctors say there is a shortage of mental health professionals both locally and nationwide, but tens of thousands of dollars in grants could help bridge the gap in the Fox Valley.
Violent incidents like mass shootings are being seen more often across the country and some say mental illness is partly to blame.
"Much more stress and people are having trouble dealing with it," said Dr. John Mielke, a retired cardiologist.
He told FOX 11 there is a critical shortage of mental health professionals to help people deal with that stress.
"We're short several thousand psychiatrists in the country. We aren't training enough," said Mielke.
So Mielke and four other area doctors helped create the Primary Care Physicians Support Project, in conjunction with NEW Mental Health Connection. The program has psychiatrists and psychologists provide primary care professionals training on mental illness a once month.
"It is thought that 40% of any family doctor's practice has something to do with mental illness," said Mielke.
The organization estimates about 4,000 children in Outagamie, Winnebago and Calumet counties are dealing with untreated mental illness.
The project has received $60,000 in the past year, thanks to funding from the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley. The grants were given by ThedaCare's Community Health Action Team.
"Having a program that can equip our community to do more in that area is really an important undertaking and we know from statistics that that continues to be a big concern," explained Curt Detjen, President and CEO of the Community Foundation.
Mielke told us he's encouraged by the community's response. He said he hopes the project can help allow mental illness to be treated like any other disease.
"People aren't so free to talk about if they're hearing voices and that sort of thing as they would be free to talk about if they had a heart attack," said Mielke.
Dr. Mielke told FOX 11 the Primary Care Physicians Support Project has enough funding now to continue training through the next year.
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