New Column Asks: What’s the Answer to the Shortage of Mental Health Care Providers?

In a column in U.S. News, David Levine points out that "two distrubing trend lines are currently crossing in the area of mental health care. One line, tracking demand for such care, is rapidly rising....The other trend line, measuring the number of mental health care providers in practice, is barely holding steady. A 2016 report released by the Health Resources and Services Administration projected the supply of workers in selected behavioral health professions to be approximately 250,000 workers short of the projected demand in 2025." And the Review of Physician and Advanced Practitioner Recruiting Incentives, a 2017 report from the physician search firm Merritt Hawkins, states that, "The shortage of psychiatrists is an escalating crisis … of more severity than shortages faced in virtually any other specialty."

He goes on to say that "he numbers are indeed troubling:

  • More than half of U.S. counties have zero psychiatrists, according to a 2016 Health Affairs report.
  • About 111 million people live in "mental health professional shortage" areas, says the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  • Two-thirds of primary care physicians report difficulty referring patients for mental health care, twice the number reported for any other specialty, according to the journal Health Affairs.
  • The number of patients going to emergency departments for psychiatric services over a recent three-year period increased 42 percent, the National Council for Behavioral Health reports."

While he lays our a number of process solution, behavioal health professionals coming together through United We Heal are speaking out about what our goals are:

  • Reasonable caseloads and staffing ratios that allow us to do our best work.
  • Meaningful development of our skills so we can provide better care.
  • Adequate wages and benefits that reflect our skill, dedication and the importance of our jobs.
  • Transparency and accountability to ensure behavioral health agencies are putting client health first.
  • A strong and protected voice on the job.

Read David Levine's full column here »