NASHVILLE, TN – The Tennessee Division of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS) and TinCare today published the report of the Public Behavioral Health Workforce Working Group. The document contains research, data and strategies for addressing publicly funded mental health services workforce challenges and substance use, some of which has already translated into Governor Bill Lee’s proposed state budget requests.
The working group was convened by TDMHSAS and TennCare over the summer, and consisted of diverse stakeholders from public behavioral health provider organizations, mental health and addiction advocacy groups, colleges and universities, and the TDMHSAS Planning and Policy Council. Over the course of three meetings, participants identified gaps and needs in the general behavioral health workforce, developed detailed strategies for creating positive change, and composed a report for key decision makers.
Download the working group report at this link
The report’s recommendations focus on several key areas of impact including provider reimbursement rates, license modifications, employee benefits and incentives, pipeline career planning, diversity and inclusion, student loan forgiveness, expansion of internship opportunities, and outreach to potential students.
“Our response to workforce challenges will truly determine how we in the public behavioral health sector meet the growing needs for mental health and addiction treatment services in a post-pandemic world,” said Mary Williams, Commissioner for TDMHSAS, LCSW. “We are very grateful to the members of this working group for their time, talent and foresight, and we are excited to partner with them to put the recommendations into action.”
“While the pandemic has amplified challenges in hiring and retaining mental health and substance use disorder providers, the efforts of the working group and this report will help us better address the challenges and continue to provide the highest quality behavioral health services to Tennessee,” said TennCare Director Stephen Smith.
Budget proposals from both TDMHSAS and TennCare reflected high priority items from the working group’s report including increasing funding to allow providers to pay more competitive wages, login bonuses, post-secondary scholarships, and internship opportunities. In all, the agencies have proposed $59 million in new and federal funding at the state level to address the issues outlined in the working group’s findings. Items included in Governor Lee’s fiscal year 23 budget proposal will be announced in early 2022 when he delivers his annual state letter.