More Than 6,000 Providers Needed to Fix the Behavioral Health Workforce Shortage

The behavioral health workforce shortage is pervasive across the U.S., with nearly one-third of Americans living in areas that lack a sufficient number of mental health providers.

And some states have it even worse than others. The shortage is especially dire in places like Wyoming and Utah, while the Northeastern part of the country is the least affected.

Those findings come from a new report from USAFacts, a nonpartisan, not-for-profit civic initiative. The report sourced data from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), which tracks mental health shortage areas by looking at the number of providers per capita, poverty rates, young and elderly population counts, travel time to a facility and the prevalence of alcohol and substance use disorder (SUD) in various geographies.


The report puts numbers to a problem behavioral health providers know well: There just aren’t enough workers to keep up with the growing demand for services. A big part of the problem is the low rates at which payers reimburse behavioral health providers, forcing them to operate on slim margins and limiting their ability to pay competitive wages.

Overall, the report found that 37% of Americans were living in behavioral health shortage areas as of March 31. It would take an additional 6,398 mental health professionals to fill those gaps.

Rural parts of the country account for two-thirds of those shortages, according to the report.


State-by-state, Wyoming and Utah have the largest proportions of their population living in shortage areas, at 96.4% and 83.3%, respectively. Meanwhile, Northeastern states like New Jersey and Massachusetts have the smallest proportion of people living in shortage areas, at 0.4% and 4%, respectively.

You can read the full report here.

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