State should create a center to grow its behavioral health workforce
The editorial “Growing emergency department crisis is a symptom of a bigger problem” (Nov. 14) painted a devastatingly spot-on picture of our state’s health care system. Emergency departments are overloaded while patients in urgent need of behavioral health treatment experience an agonizing and seemingly unending wait for care.
The problem is rooted in the challenges faced by a workforce that is stressed and stretched thin by the coronavirus pandemic, still recovering from decades of inadequate funding, and dogged by economic and racial inequities — and none of these issues can be fixed by any one organization. There have been numerous calls to action, but what is urgently needed is a coordinated effort to respond with an immediate focus on retaining and growing our behavioral health workforce.
That’s why our foundation recently recommended that the state create a Behavioral Health Workforce Center charged with improving the numbers, distribution, competency, and diversity of the labor force of clinicians and other professionals who deliver mental health and substance use disorder services. Without centralized responsibility and collaborative accountability, we can only expect the crisis to continue.
President and CEO
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation
Behavioral health clinics aren’t getting the funding they need
Your editorial speaks to the remarkable stress that our health care system is experiencing and the impact this has on patients.
At the root of this crisis is a serious behavioral health workforce shortage that undermines care across all settings. This crisis will not abate until we devise a way to invest in the community behavioral health clinics where this workforce gets trained, so that these clinicians can ultimately care for patients in the hospital and elsewhere.
It is these very clinics that provide the supervision needed for behavioral health professionals to get trained and licensed, and these clinics are struggling to get the needed resources. Private and public health plans must fairly fund outpatient clinics to expand access today and tomorrow.
As our association found in a study released this year, for every 10 professionals coming into the behavioral health profession, 13 are leaving. Until we properly fund the community behavioral health system, the hospital emergency department boarding crisis cannot be solved.
President and CEO
Association for Behavioral Healthcare
Looking to Healey to continue championing public health, equity
We applaud the Globe for pointing out the need to invest in prevention to reduce overcrowding in our state’s emergency departments. We couldn’t agree more. There is extensive research demonstrating that health outcomes are primarily determined by the conditions in which people live. These social determinants of health include access to clean air and water, nutritious food, stable housing, reliable public transit, and safe communities.
Governor-elect Maura Healey has been a champion for public health and has called for addressing social determinants of health as an essential policy priority. As attorney general, she oversaw the publication of the 2022 Healthcare Cost Trends Report and Building Toward Racial Justice and Equity in Health: A Call to Action, both of which highlighted the need for new policy solutions to help Massachusetts achieve health equity.
We look forward to working with her administration to focus more resources on the upstream drivers of health. In this way, we can transform our “sick care system” to a true health care system that improves health outcomes for all of the residents of our Commonwealth.
Massachusetts Public Health Association