TDMHSAS TennCare Publish Public Behavioral Health Workforce Report

Recommendations already translating into budget proposals to address challenges
Thursday, December 09, 2021 | 09:39am

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—The Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS) and TennCare today published the Public Behavioral Health Workforce Workgroup report.  The document contains research, data, and strategies for addressing workforce challenges in publicly-funded mental health and substance use services, some of which have already translated into state budget requests proposed to Governor Bill Lee.

Convened by TDMHSAS and TennCare over the summer, the workgroup was comprised 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 public behavioral health workforce, developed detailed strategies for creating positive change, and authored the report for key decisionmakers.

Download the workgroup report at this link

The report’s recommendations focus on several key areas of impact including provider reimbursement rates, licensure modifications, employee benefits and incentives, pipeline career planning, diversity and inclusion, student loan forgiveness, expanding internship opportunities, and communicating to potential students.

“Our response to workforce challenges is really going to define how we in the public behavioral health sector are able to meet to the increasing need of mental health and addiction treatment services in the post-pandemic world,” said TDMHSAS Commissioner Marie Williams, LCSW.  “We are so grateful to the members of this workgroup for their time, talent, and insight, and we are excited to partner with them to put the recommendations into practice.”

“While the pandemic has magnified challenges in recruitment and retainment of mental health and substance use disorder treatment providers, the efforts of the workgroup and this report will help us to better address the challenges and continue to provide the highest quality behavioral health services to Tennesseans,” said TennCare Director Stephen Smith.

Budget proposals from both TDMHSAS and TennCare reflected high-priority items from the workgroup report including increased funding to allow providers to pay more competitive wages, sign-on bonuses, post-secondary scholarships, and internship opportunities.  In all, the agencies proposed $59 million in new state and federal funding to address issues contained in the workgroup’s findings.  Items included in Governor Lee’s FY23 budget proposal will be announced in early 2022 when he delivers his annual State of the State Address.