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Counselor shortage impacting agencies across southern Arizona

Long wait times for those seeking help
Bridges Counseling office
Posted at 5:25 PM, Apr 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-08 20:25:21-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN9) — Some counselors in Southern Arizona are having to turn away patients with wait lists up to three months out.

One study,estimates that the average wait time to see a psychiatrist is 25 days for any new patients.

"Students that need more ongoing care, long term individual counseling services, specialized counseling services for things like OCD or other diagnoses," Aaron Barnes said. "It becomes a real issue because there's not a whole lot of availability here in to southern Arizona."

Aaron Barnes, Director at the University of Arizona Counseling and Psychology Services, says there's a shortage of counselors for many reasons.

"It's taken a great toll on mental health providers," Barnes said. "We went through the pandemic as well and we were sitting in our homes providing counseling services. So we've actually seen a mass departure from folks in our field."

Arelis Valasquez with Bridges Counseling, says she gets calls every day from new patients who have been previously put off by long wait times or no answer at all.

"Typically not able to reach someone so when they call," Valasquez said. "They normally get a voicemail or don't get a hold of anyone within a week. And really, it takes a long time to make that first connection."

Another issue many clients also face, is keeping a counselor once they find one.

Someone may get a one on one counselor maybe in three months and then that's finding the counselor and having the counselor stick with it," Sandra Barger, Counselor with Bridges Counseling said. "That's another issue for clients. I had this counselor, was going great, now they're not here anymore and I have to find another counselor.

Tucson Unified School District offers counseling for students and their family members. For more information, click here.

The University of Arizona also offers counseling services to students. For more information, click here.

The Mental Health Crisis Line, (520) 622-6000, where you can connect you with a counselor 24/7.

Denelle Veselik is an anchor and investigative reporter for KGUN 9. It's been her dream to tell your stories for the past decade. She is extremely curious and wants to continue to use her storytelling for the greater good. Share your story ideas and important issues with Denelle by emailing or by connecting on Facebook, Instagram and X/Twitter.