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Expanding the Behavioral Health Workforce Beyond Licensed Specialists Would Help Fill Gaps in Care

Washington, DC – With mental illness and substance use disorder rates continuing to rise alongside a shortage in behavioral health care specialists, the United States must look to other professionals and community services to fill the void. This morning, the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Health Program released a new report that will help policymakers foster a robust workforce that includes more unlicensed professionals and in turn, improve access to treatments in communities across the country.  

“We must look beyond the traditional workforce if we’re going to solve our nation’s behavioral health crisis,” said Marilyn Serafini, executive director of BPC’s Health Program. “We simply cannot grow the pool of psychiatrists, psychologists, and other specialists fast enough to narrow the growing gap between the need for help and availability of services—at least not anytime soon.”  

The report, Filling the Gaps in the Behavioral Health Workforce, lays out recommendations to help close the ever-expanding behavioral health workforce gap through:  

  • Building a set of core competencies for behavioral health support specialists;  
  • Creating pathways for coverage of behavioral health support specialists within Medicare and Medicaid; 
  • Creating a pipeline program to help behavioral health support specialists become licensed behavioral health professionals; 
  • Establishing a community-initiated care-specific demonstration grant; and 
  • Encouraging the adoption of community-initiated care through integration of existing federal funding streams. 

Read the full report 

On January 24, BPC will host a virtual event to discuss the recommendations included in the report. RSVP here.   

Find all of BPC’s behavioral health policy work online