Workforce problems have an impact on almost every aspect of prevention
and treatment across all sectors of the diverse behavioral health field. - National Action Plan on the Behavioral Health Workforce, 2007.
Workforce development is designed to improve the behavioral health of individuals, families and communities by ensuring that there is a workforce of appropriate size, composition, and competency to address mental health and substance use related needs in a specific geographic area or the nation at large. There has been a longstanding consensus in the United States about the critical need to strengthen the behavioral health workforce. The Mental Health Technology Transfer Centers (MHTTCs) are committed to playing a key role in addressing that need.
There are many workforce challenges in behavioral health and a myriad of strategies and tactics for strengthening the workforce. At times, the complexity is overwhelming to those provider organizations or policymakers that are engaged in workforce planning and intervention. The 2007 SAMHSA-funded national Action Plan on behavioral health workforce development identified a framework for organizing planning and action that focused on: (1) broadening the composition of the workforce, (2) strengthening the traditional workforce, and (3) creating structures to support the workforce. View this workforce framework.
Workforce Challenges and Solutions in Mental Health Webinar
In June 2019, the MHTTC Network Coordinating Office and Michael Hoge, Ph.D. from the Annapolis Coalition on the Behavioral Health Workforce facilitated a webinar, Workforce Challenges and Solutions in Mental Health, in which major workforce challenges were briefly reviewed and an array of strategies for finding, keeping and building a more competent workforce were presented. Innovative practices from across the country were also highlighted.The recording for this webinar can be accessed here. The slide deck for this webinar, as well as the webinar recording transcription, are available for download in the MHTTC Products and Resources catalog.
Addressing Mental Health Workforce Needs Resource
Workforce development is designed to improve the behavioral health of individuals, families and communities by ensuring that there is a workforce of appropriate size, composition, and competency to address mental health and substance use related needs in a specific geographic area or the nation at large. There has been a longstanding consensus in the United States about the critical need to strengthen the behavioral health workforce. The Mental Health Technology Transfer Centers (MHTTCs) are committed to playing a key role in addressing that need. MHTTC Network: Addressing Mental Health Workforce Needs is available for download in the MHTTC Products and Resources catalog.
In addition, there are a variety of websites and major reports that serve as resources for behavioral health workforce development. View the resource list.
Special Topics in Workforce Development
Click on the headings below to learn more about these workforce development topics.
Characteristics of the Workforce
Behavioral health has, perhaps, the most diverse workforce among all health care fields with respect to the types of providers.
At the foundation of workforce training are the competencies that define the essential knowledge, skills, and attitudes required to function effectively in the field of mental health.
Direct Care Workers
Direct care workers without graduate education in behavioral health comprise one of the largest segments of the mental health and addiction workforce. Yet, there is often little attention given to the recruitment, training, supervision, and retention of these essential workers.
Effective workforce development can be facilitated by various forms of infrastructure. These include: state and regional workforce development structures; technical assistance structures; human resources and training infrastructures; workforce planning and quality improvement systems; and information technology.
Leadership abilities, which were once thought to be innate traits, are now considered to be competencies that many, if not most, workers can develop. Leadership competencies in the mental health field have been identified and leadership training programs developed. From a workforce perspective, these tools and resources make it possible to engage in succession planning in mental health organizations.
Peer Support Workforce
The provision of support by and between individuals with a history of mental illness has a long tradition. What was once largely an informal process has evolved and expanded over the last few decades into a more formal peer support workforce.
Recruitment & Retention
Workforce recruitment and retention have long been identified as significant challenges in the behavioral health field. While these are simple terms, the issues are quite complex.
Rural Mental Health Workforce
Workforce shortages of mental health providers are particularly severe in rural and low-income sections of the country. Many counties lack a single mental health prescriber. There are a broad range of strategies being used to address the shortages and strengthen the rural workforce, as well as numerous resources to assist in these efforts.
Supervision & Coaching
There is a strong tradition regarding the supervision of individuals who provide mental health services. While the need for supervision of the workforce has never been greater, the practice has eroded during the last few decades. Professional associations, academic departments, technical assistance centers, and peer specialist organizations are now attempting to strengthen supervision in our field.
Training Methods and Strategies
Training is often considered the primary form of workforce development. The historical focus on training as imparting information in a classroom setting has evolved into a much more complex approach that encompasses the following: training content and process tailored to different target audiences; a logic model for changing the professional practice of learners; evidence-based training methods; and advanced learning models that involve training.