Report: Number of mental health professionals jumps nearly 40% MO

The latest edition of America’s Health Rankings is out — and while Missouri ranked 40th overall, the state has shown improvements in volunteerism, colon cancer screening and a lower percentage of households with severe housing problems.

Missouri is comparable to neighboring large, mostly rural states with concentrated urban pockets.

Dr. Peter Panagos — a professor of emergency medicine and neurology at Washington University in Saint Louis School of Medicine — said because of Missouri’s diverse patient population, he’s not surprised by the ranking.

But he added that there are positive aspects.

“We have a pretty high high school completion rate, our income equality is pretty good,” Panagos said. “We are a state that believes in helping others and our number of volunteers is quite high.”

Missouri also had a nearly 40 percent increase in the number of mental health professionals.

MO HealthNet – Missouri’s Medicaid program – now provides access to behavioral health services to support mental health, drug and alcohol abuse issues.

Panagos said the report highlights opportunities in lifestyle and public health decisions in general, such as fruit and vegetable consumption, use of tobacco products and lack of exercise – all of which he says have implications for heart and brain health.

There are also other critical factors that affect the state’s ranking.

“As an emergency physician working in St. Louis, I’m certainly very, very, very aware of the impact of gun violence and murder in our cities,” Panagos said. “A lot of that is because of our urban centers and our weapons.”

Panagos said Missouri can use areas where neighboring states are doing better as a roadmap for improving the health care system, community support networks and overall public health.

Dr. Rhonda Randall — chief medical officer of UnitedHealthcare Employer and Individual, which compiles the health ratings — said the number of adults in the U.S. with chronic conditions is at an all-time high.

“Things like arthritis, diabetes, asthma, heart disease, lung disease, kidney disease, cancer, for example,” said Randall, “are conditions that can be well managed with appropriate lifestyle changes and medical care.”

He said the UHC report provides a big picture of the nation’s challenges and strengths and what authorities and people can do for a better future. The report is at

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