Updated Behavioral Health Workforce Projections

Date: 
03/29/2019

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) has released updated behavioral health workforce projections for 2016 to 2030. The analyses, mandated by the 21st Century Cures Act (PDF - 930 KB), include factsheets with workforce estimates for eight behavioral health occupations, including:

  • Addiction counselors,
  • Marriage and family therapists,
  • Mental health and school counselors,
  • Psychiatric technicians and psychiatric aides,
  • Psychiatric nurse practitioners and psychiatric physician assistants,
  • Psychiatrists,
  • Psychologists, and
  • Social workers.

HRSA also developed a report that provides State-level projections (PDF – 1.5 MB) of the supply and demand for members of the behavioral health workforce between 2016 and 2030.

Understanding trends in availability and distribution of the workforce is critical when working to improve access to behavioral health services. The summary report (PDF – .27 MB) notes that the shortage of a qualified and experienced behavioral health workforce is “exacerbated by high turnover rates, a lack of professionals, aging workers, and low compensation.”

In particular, rural areas often face workforce shortages. In 2018, the University of Michigan School of Public Health Behavioral Health Workforce Research Center published the results of a study, “Characteristics of the Rural Behavioral Health Workforce: A Survey of Medicaid/Medicare Reimbursed Providers” (PDF – 1.14 MB).  Researchers found that the three highest new-hire priorities for rural behavioral health provider organizations were occupational therapists, pharmacists, and nurse practitioners. They offer policy recommendations to meet the need for services, including promoting the adoption of integrated care through several strategies and funding mechanisms.