SAMSHA’s 2020 Behavioral Health Workforce Report estimated the number of behavioral health providers needed to treat individuals in the United States diagnosed with moderate to severe SMI that includes schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression. The need is large, estimating a shortage of around 4 million total behavioral health practitioners needed to meet current demands. Recommendations to address these needs are as follows:
- Develop and implement a national campaign to educate the public about the need for behavioral health providers and encourage students to pursue careers in behavioral health.
- Provide funding to healthcare practitioner education programs to embed information on care and treatment of serious mental illness and substance use disorders into standard undergraduate curriculum.
- Encourage clinical placements/practicums in mental health and substance use disorder settings to increase the knowledge base of practitioners in behavioral health services.
- Increase loan forgiveness programs for all behavioral health specialties to encourage entry to the field.
- Increase the peer professional workforce and make these providers an integral component of behavioral health services. Require insurers to reimburse for peer professional services.