Even though the demand for virtual mental health services exploded in 2020, 37 states have reported shortages in quality mental health care availability. The Department of Health and Human Services, or DHHS, projects a deficit equalling nearly 27,000 full-time jobs across nine professions, including psychiatrists, nurse practitioners, therapists, and social workers, by 2025.
The DHHS also employed Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration data from the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health to project an alternative scenario—one far more alarming. With SAMSHA data incorporated, the country will be short 250,510 people in nine critical mental health professions by 2025. Population growth, aging, economic conditions, and the geographic location of the health workforce are some of the many factors that could lead to such shortages.
The Health Resources and Services Administration, which is charged with improving access to quality mental health care for isolated and/or financially vulnerable communities, oversees programs that allocate educational resources as well as clinical training integrating mental health care with primary care.
Charlie Health investigated how every state ranks in the shortage of mental health professionals and what it would take to close the shortfall using data from the Health Resources and Services Administration and the Census Bureau. States are ranked by the percentage of counties with a mental health professional shortage.
Only geographic areas with a fully designated shortage status and listed ratio of patients to providers were included in the list. The following states are not included because they do not currently have any counties or census tracts designated with mental health professional shortages: Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Washington D.C., Kentucky, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, and Wyoming.
Research suggests that training mental health workers in community-based settings—and rural areas that often experience shortages—is likely to produce providers willing to serve these high-need areas during their careers. Focusing resources in states with the most significant lack of mental health care providers could eliminate more than 40% of the projected shortages. Seven states have more than half of the counties with shortages. Six of these seven states are in the Midwest, where communities are generally more spread apart, which can impede access to a mental health care provider. Keep practicing to learn where shortages are worst.