Bloomsberg recently ran a 6 part series of articles on America’s Great Payroll Giveaway, or on how wealthy Americans line the pockets of wealthy Americans. Part 2 in this series concerned psychiatry, and it bore the heading, California Psychiatrists Paid $400,000 Shows Bidding War. That $400,000 tab the American tax payer is picking up is approximate, a more or less. Sometimes it is, understating the case, a wee bit more…
Mohammad Safi, a graduate of a medical school in Afghanistan, began working as a psychiatrist at a California mental hospital in 2006, making $90,682 in his first six months. Last year, he took home $822,302, all of it paid by taxpayers.
When, following a law suit, pay increases were ordered for the states prison psychiatrists, as a lure for more prison psychiatrists, there became so many vacancies outside of the prison system that the state then had to order pay increases for psychiatrists across the board.
Safi benefited from what amounted to a bidding war after a federal court forced the state to improve inmate care. The prisons raised pay to lure psychiatrists, the mental health department followed suit to keep employees, and costs soared. Last year, 16 California psychiatrists, including Safi, made more than $400,000, while only one did in the other 11 most populous states, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
The thing is that what we have here is a domino effect. These pay raises in turn affect service costs in other states.
The pay boosts caused staff costs for mental-health practitioners to rise elsewhere, said Stephen Mayberg, head of California’s mental health department in early 2007, when the raises started. Psychiatrists are among the highest paid employees in California, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, data show.
One thing you can count on is that the rest of the mental health field, and former patients, aren’t pulling in nearly the figures these psychiatrists are raking in. Although the article suggests that with 48,000 psychiatrists in the USA there is still a great shortage of psychiatrists, I would suggest the opposite is true. With psychologists and social workers now taking up the responsibilities for counseling that once fell to psychiatrists trained in psychoanalysis, psychiatrists have become little more than pill pushers. What’s more, the pills they are pushing don’t help their patients recover.
We don’t need more overpaid professionals to push poisons on people. What we need are people who can deal with the power and wealth disparities that divide and crush people. Disparities such as those which came with such a windfall for psychiatrists, in their gated communities, while their clients have to struggle through a marginal existence in a ghetto of limited resources just to survive. Do something about that divide, change those circumstances, and I will bet you will begin to see recovery rates soar in this country the way we haven’t seen those rates climb in a very long while.