Demand for mental health care rising as provider shortage persists

Published: Feb. 10, 2021 at 6:11 PM CST
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APPLETON, Wis. (WBAY) - Many people have reached out for mental health care since the start of the pandemic, but there’s a shortage of licensed professionals on hand to address that demand.

However, one area provider is trying to tackle that issue in order to help the community.

Members of Foundations Health and Wholeness say they’re trying to add up to three more therapists to meet a high demand, but the industry’s workforce shortage makes that difficult.

“We’ve certainly seen the increase in requests for therapy,” says Counseling Director Julie Feld. “Based on our experience before the pandemic, it can be six months before we get a counselor in place. There’s not a lot of people out there that are looking for jobs in the counseling field.”

The state’s Office for Children’s Mental Health (OCMH) says areas with mental health service shortages can lead to negative impacts like increases in suicide, substance abuse and child abuse.

Feld says that shortage, especially now, can put providers in a tough position.

“What do you do, right? Do you see more but not very often, or do you see them more often, hopefully get them better and get them out the door so you can see more people?” said Feld.

Feld says at Foundations they believe it’s important to get people care within four weeks time and to see them more frequently. So, whenever Foundations can’t accept a new client under that criteria, they turn to Connections for Mental Wellness.

The Brown County collective brings providers together, allowing them to connect clients to help when they’re unable to lend services.

“They’re the ones that bring us all around the table so that we’re working as a community to meet the mental health needs and we’re not working in silos,” said Feld. “Without that we’d be just saying to clients ‘Call another organization, good luck,’ but with the connections that they have created between us organizations we are better able to meet the important needs of the clients.”

Those types of collectives are one of the ways OCMH suggests communities can help with the shortage.

Foundations also has a residential training program where they hire people who have their degree in the field, but still need to complete the 3,000 supervision hours necessary to become licensed.

“I’m just glad they get the experience, and the education, and the supervision necessary to be really good, qualified clinical therapists. So whether they stay with us or not, we just want to be sure the community has more therapists to meet the ongoing need,” said Feld.

Until those needs are met, Feld supposes providers are just going to have to adapt as demand continues to increase.

“I think it will cause a more critical need and we’re going to have to get creative I guess in meeting those needs,” said Feld. “I can appreciate different agencies doing it differently because we’re all just trying to figure out how to help clients the best we can,” says Feld.

The OCMH’s latest report includes suggestions for policymakers, providers, communities, and parents on what actions they can take to help with the mental health workforce shortage.

To see that full report: CLICK HERE

To learn more about Connections for Mental Wellness: CLICK HERE

OCMH mental health shortage information
OCMH mental health shortage information(OCMH)

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