Over the past three months, demand for mental health and substance use treatment has increased nearly 80% over the past three months — continuing a steady rise that started more than a year ago — according to a new poll from Morning Consult and the National Council for Mental Wellbeing.
As the need and demand for those services continue to rise, organizations providing care are still facing major staffing hurdles that limit the delivery of service. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the staffing shortage in the mental health and substance treatment industries and the issue is only getting worse.
While demand grows, workforce shortages have made it increasingly difficult for mental health and substance use treatment organizations to keep pace. The main issue these providers face is recruiting and retaining employees. In the survey published this week, 97% of respondents said it had been difficult to recruit employees and 78% said it has been “very difficult.”
Demand for mental health services has grown 42% in the past three months. Over the same time period, demand for substance use treatment has increased by 27%, youth mental health and substance use by 36%, crisis services by 37% and social services by 37%.
Chuck Ingoglia is the president and CEO of the National Council for Mental Wellbeing. In a news release, Ingoglia said the pandemic has “exacerbated our nation’s mental health and substance use crisis.”
“It has also made it more difficult for treatment organizations to provide clients the care they need and deserve,” Ingoglia said. “This crisis demands that we find solutions that allow clients to get the treatment they need and provide organizations the resources they require to attract and retain staff in a competitive marketplace.”
Providers and organizations that work in the industry also reported that staff burnout is a major problem. A shortage of workers has also resulted in longer wait lists at 62% of organizations surveyed over the past three months. The wait lists have forced some to reduce services at such a critical time for patients.
Throughout the pandemic, many providers have turned to telehealth to deliver a sustainable and effective way to provide services. In the new survey, mental health and substance use treatment organizations said continued funding for telehealth services and increasing Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement rates “would provide organizations with significant relief and allow them to add staff and boost services.”
“At a time when people and communities have demonstrated the need for more mental health and substance use caregivers, more programs and more services, too many organizations remain unable to meet this historic demand,” Ingoglia said. “That does not bode well for our collective wellbeing, and it has exposed the profound shortcomings in our nation’s funding for mental health and substance use treatment.”
Ingoglia added that he and his organization look forward to working with the Biden administration to raise awareness about the “oversight that harms so many small businesses, which includes organizations that provide mental health and substance use treatment.”
Written by Patrick Filbin