Reposted from NYAPRS –
Another Voice: To Improve Mental Health, Build The Workforce First
By William T. Gettman Jr. Buffalo News OP Ed August 8, 2023
In her second State of the State, state budget and recent Youth Mental Health Summit, Gov. Kathy Hochul proposed significant investments in mental health.
Her proposals ranged from expanding insurance coverage for mental health services to increased capacity for inpatient psychiatric beds. The plan also includes an expansion of outpatient services, payment parity and more wraparound services for people transitioning from one setting to another.
This bold approach and leadership is commendable in light of the growing and well-documented need for mental health services. A recent survey of psychologists reported increases in patients seeking treatment for anxiety, depression and substance-related disorders compared with 2020.
A key factor to the success of many of these initiatives will be the staff to provide those services. These types of professionals can include direct care staff, social workers, mental health counselors, peers, addiction specialists, psychiatrists, nurses, clinical social workers and more.
Key actions for workforce recruitment and retention include:
- Increasing the reimbursement rates the state offers and incentivizing more provider participation thereby expanding access.
- Providing adequate and consistent salary and benefit increases for staff to impact retention.
- Reducing administrative burdens to lessen the time and effort necessary to process documentation.
- Expanding school-based mental health services in educational settings.
- Continuing to integrate mental health care within primary care practices.
- Convening colleges and universities to develop an action plan to increase the recruitment and retention of students.
- Investing a portion of the budget funds into scholarship, loan forgiveness and paid internships.
- Develop pipeline actions to support an increase in peer staff to support growing needs.
The goal of our mental health system innovation is to improve the health of every New Yorker.
Infrastructure and innovation are important tools, but the most important part of any mental health care system is the people who deliver that care. We need passionate, talented, well-trained people to implement these ideas. It’s vitally important that we have the right people in place; that is the only way to meet our goals.