77% of Behavioral Health Insiders Say Staffing Will Be Top Financial Strain in 2023

Behavioral health insiders project staffing will remain the most significant headwind in 2023.

That’s according to a new Behavioral Health Business survey released this week, which included 150 responses from professionals who work in the behavioral health industry.

Fifty-three percent of survey respondents said staffing is the biggest challenge the behavioral health industry will face in 2023. That was followed by reimbursement challenges (34%), consolidation (7%), the general economic downturn (3%) and regulatory changes (3%).


Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, rates of behavioral health conditions have spiked. About 40 million adults in the U.S. have an anxiety disorder, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. As a result, the demand for behavioral health services is at an all-time high.


The CDC recently reported that the percentage of adults who received any mental health treatment in the past 12 months increased from 19.2% in 2019 to 21.6% in 2021. Yet more than half of adults with mental illness do not receive treatment, according to Mental Health America.

“We know there are a lot of people who need our behavioral health services whom we want to be able to treat, but we cannot grow services without more staff,” Marc D. Miller, president and CEO of Universal Health Services (NYSE: UHS), previously told BHB. “We believe the staffing challenges experienced across the health care sector will normalize to a significant extent in 2023.”

King of Prussia, Pennsylvania-based UHS operates 335 behavioral health inpatient facilities.

The vast majority of BHB survey respondents also forecast staffing as the greatest financial strain on the industry in 2023. Specifically, 77% said staffing would be the biggest financial strain. This was followed by telehealth implementation (8%), a decline in patient volume (6%), sales and marketing (3%), and liability insurance (3%).

Over the last few years, recruitment and retention difficulties have plagued nearly every facet of the behavioral health industry.

For many providers, it inhibits expansion efforts.

“For health care overall, the greatest challenges will remain the ability to recruit, train and retain qualified health care providers,” Kathleen Bailey Stengel, CEO of NeurAbilities Healthcare, previously told BHB. “In the autism space, specifically, this continues to be the main barrier to growth, with both the overall need for medical and behavioral health diagnosticians and skilled therapists for ongoing treatment. While the rates of autism disorders continue to rise, clinical staff that treat this population are not trained at the same rate.”

New Jersey-based NeurAbilities Healthcare is a nationally accredited applied behavioral analysis treatment provider. It has 17 centers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

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