Amid a national shortage of psychiatrists, residents of rural and low-income areas feel are feeling the  pinch more strongly.

Echoing programs meant to amplify the nursing and teaching professions, a new law in New Jersey will encourage more psychiatrists to practice in those areas.

Some psychiatrists who agree to work in underserved parts of New Jersey will be eligible to get part of their medical school tuition reimbursed, according to the law.

But they will have to stay in that area for between one and four years.

The annual county health rankings report dhows real disparities in the state.

In Cumberland County, the ratio of residents to mental health care providers is almost 1,400 to one. In Somerset County, the average was closer to 400 to one.

"The fact of the matter is there are pockets where we don't have we don't have professional coverage. We don't have psychiatrists practicing in those areas," said Assemblywoman Mila Jasey, D-Essex, who co-sponsored the measure.

It's a small attempt to get more mental health professionals into these communities, she said.

"There's a crisis, that is in some places already here, but is certainly looming in other places," Jasey said. "And so this bill is really just a small attempt to encourage people who go into psychiatry to consider practicing in areas that are underserved."

As for how much tuition reimbursement the state will offer — Jasey said that will depend on how many decide to take advantage of the new program and what kinds of rules and regulations the state health commissioner creates.