Texas is facing a worsening shortage of mental health care professionals, including licensed social workers, therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists.
Now, 98% of Texas’ 254 counties are wholly or partially designated by the federal government as mental health professional shortage areas. While the number of mental health professionals state-wide slightly increased last year, it does not make up for the number of people leaving the profession due to financial and emotional strains. The state also faces a dwindling number of providers who will train individuals working toward the licensures that are required for practicing mental health care, which will only worsen the shortage.
This workforce shortage is a crisis that is already compounding another crisis.
Texas ranks last in access to children’s mental health services, and 33rd for adult behavioral healthcare, according to Mental Health America. To make matters worse, the demand for mental health care has increased since the COVID-19 pandemic began, as substance use disorders, anxiety disorders, depression, and related mental health conditions increase at alarming rates. If we do not address this workforce shortage immediately, Texans will continue to struggle with long-term and potentially life-threatening mental health conditions.
How does The Council help address this crisis?
Our priority is to get people impacted by substance abuse the help they need, whether that’s at The Council or elsewhere.The shortage of available mental health professionals is now one of the biggest barriers keeping them from getting help. Here are three ways The Council is working to diminish that barrier:
- We train mental health professionals. The Council offers multi-disciplinary training for undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate interns seeking licensure-hour fulfillment. Our Mary Bell Behavioral Health Clinical Fellowship has been a pillar in our efforts to train the next generation of clinical behavioral health professionals for more than a decade. We also provide continuing education workshops for licensed professionals employed at The Council and across Houston. Through these, we hope to retain skilled and compassionate professionals to help effectively address Texas’ mental health crisis.
- We train other professionals. Since its inception, The Council’s Center for Co-Occurring Disorders and community education efforts has trained hundreds of medical and public health professionals to recognize the signs and symptoms of substance use and co-occurring mental health disorders and recommend appropriate courses of action.
- We partner with organizations to recruit new professionals. We’re working with the Network of Behavioral Health Providers to reach a behavioral health workforce that can serve diverse communities by supporting their recruitment and advocacy initiatives across the Greater Houston area.