OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — The Behavioral Health Education Center of Nebraska released a report that shows a 33.5% increase in behavioral health workers in the last decade.
The report highlighted that the number of prescribers (e.g. nurse practitioners, physician assistants and psychiatrists) increased by 32% while psychologists and therapists increased by 39%.
However, there are still persistent issues that exist within the industry including a shortage of behavioral health specialists across Nebraska as well as an aging workforce.
Examples of these issues are 88 of 93 counties meet federal guidelines for a shortage of professionals, 29 counties lacking any provider, and more than half the workforce are over the age of 50.
"In Nebraska, one in five people either has a mental health diagnosis or a substance use disorder. And we're seeing even higher numbers because of the pandemic. In Nebraska last year, overdose deaths rose by 43 percent," said Marley Doyle, MD, director of BHECN and an assistant professor in the UNMC Department of Psychiatry.
BHECN, which is housed at UNMC, is in its 12th year of service after the Nebraska Legislature passed LB 603 to address staffing shortages.
It has a partnership with graduate behavioral health training programs to improve behavioral health statewide.
"At BHECN, we are continuously working to create innovative ways of recruiting and retaining our workforce," Dr. Doyle said. "We have experienced growth in some areas. Most notably, we have seen major increases in the number of psychiatric nurse practitioners and mental health counselors."
The organization added the BHECN Panhandle office in 2019 joining BHECN Kearney as a satellite location to grow the behavioral health workforce in more rural areas.
BHECN Panhandle is housed at Chadron State College with leadership by co-directors Tara Wilson, Ph.D., associate professor at Chadron State, and Catherine Jones-Hazledine, Ph.D., owner of Western Nebraska Behavioral Health.
As well as these partnerships more than 5,000 students have participated in an ambassador program. This introduces high school, college, and professional school students to careers in behavioral health. Presentations, events, and conferences are resources that give these students more information about the field.
Community partners and grants help BHECN connect people with training at integrated behavioral health clinics, psychiatric hospitals, and community-based centers.
To read the full report go to: https://www.unmc.edu/bhecn/workforce/legislative-reports.html