Mental health workforce swamped by need, what needs to happen

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A few recent reports have raised alarms about whether our healthy system’s mental health capacity can meet the need, and what we can do about it.

The need is great. A mid-September Household Pulse Census survey found that 361,729 Connecticut residents reported feeling anxiety nearly every day and 219,164 reported depressive thoughts nearly every day. The need has increased across the US.

A new Kaiser survey of large US employer health plans finds they are more concerned about having enough mental health than primary care providers to meet the growing need. Only half of plans (52%) report they have enough behavioral health providers in their network to allow timely access to care, while 89% report an adequate primary care network. One in six employer plans has seen an increase in workers requesting leave for mental health conditions.

Last week, the GAO released a report on the shortage of behavioral health providers, barriers to recruiting and retaining workforce, and made recommendations to fill the gap. The report urges increasing payment rates for behavioral healthcare services, an emphasis on attracting people to the professions, increasing loan forgiveness programs, and more internships and supervisors.