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Reduction of Mental Healthcare Workforce Contrasts with Need

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at April 9, 2018

According to ModernHealthcare.com, the U.S. healthcare sector added 22,400 jobs in March, an improvement from February and roughly in line with its average monthly gain over the past year. The largest decline in the healthcare sector took place within residential mental health facilities, which shed 4,100 jobs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ newest jobs report released Friday. That’s after those facilities made 700 new hires in February. Ambulatory healthcare services continued its steady growth in March. That sector saw the most new hires within healthcare: adding 16,200 jobs. Hospitals added 9,900 jobs, an improvement from 9,300 new jobs in February. Within the ambulatory sector, dentists’ offices added 4,400 jobs, physicians’ offices added 3,700, outpatient care centers added 3,500 and home healthcare.

Any why is this?

Three main reasons:

  1. Difficulty of Marketing/Brand Recognition – Unlike more traditional forms of healthcare, assisting a patient with selecting a mental health/substance use disorder provider is not as easy as making a referral to a local provider. It is inherently constrained by the refusal of insurance carriers to provide robust IN-NETWORK benefits and providers and by local zoning authorities hindering and obstructing the siting and growth of such facilities. You can’t employee people if you can’t open your facility (and keep it open).
  2. Failure to Pay – You can’t pay the army of employees you need to do this right if you don’t have steady, predictable income, unless you want to staff your facility with interns and unqualified people with little to no experience. I believe our citizens deserve better.
  3. Workforce – People have never flocked to this segment of healthcare as a professional or occupation due to lack of education, lack of ability to make a living, and stigma. In the early days of mental health care, psychiatrists themselves were criticized by their medical school peers as not practicing “real medicine.” On top of that, only the wealthy could afford such services. With insurance only now beginning to pay, the reimbursements are so low that a healthcare provider is stuck with offering volume care over quality. Providers are simply unable to pay competitive salaries and therefore the already limited mental healthcare workforce is going elsewhere.
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