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Help the state address the mental health worker shortage

22 Mar 2014 12:43 PM | Deleted user

There’s a mental health workforce shortage in Texas, according to a report by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.

HB 1023 (Burkett/Nelson) directed the commission to develop policy recommendations to address the shortage. The commission is looking for recommendations from counselors and other stakeholders on how to do any of the following:

1) Improve employee recruitment and retention

2) Give greater attention to the needs of rural and border area

3) Increase cultural and linguistic diversity

4) Reevaluate and update the educational curriculum for health professionals 

5) Collect more data at the state and national level to fully inform workforce planning initiatives

Check out the report and send your feedback by April 1, 2014 HPRC@dshs.state.tx.us.

According to the report:

  • There were 3,062 marriage and family therapists (MFTs) practicing in Texas as of September 2013, giving a ratio of 8,708.2 persons per MFT.
  • Within the state’s five most populous counties the population to MFT ratio was 6,442:1 while it was 11,923:1 in the rest of the state, comprising proportions of 41.35% and 58.65%, respectively.
  • In 2013, 27.7% of MFTs were 65 or older and another 31.8% were between 55 and 64 years old, meaning that 59.6% of the workforce will be of retirement age by 2023.
  • Average annual growth of the MFT workforce in Texas has been 1.8% from 2008-2013. Yet when considering population growth, there has been just 0.2% average annual growth.

The Texas Counseling Association plans to submit comments on the following areas, according to an email to its members.

  • Include Licensed Professional Counselors in the Core Mental Health Professions. LPCs credentials, experience and clients completely align with the mental health professionals listed as Core Mental Health Professions. LPCs are the largest group of independent mental health Medicaid providers (3,733) in Texas as of July 2013. LPCs are identified as eligible providers to address unmet need under the National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment program. (There is no cost associated with this change. It would require either a rule change (agency) or a change in definitions in statute.)
  • Allow LPC-Interns to bill for services under the Medicaid program. These mental health professionals have completed their graduate degrees, earned practicum experience and passed their licensure and jurisprudence exams. They are licensed to deliver mental health services directly to clients under the supervision of an LPC-Supervisor. Their education and experience level are comparable to Psychological Associates and Provisionally Licensed Psychologists who are currently allowed to bill for their services under Medicaid. Allowing LPC-Interns to bill for services under Medicaid will also create a pathway to increase the number of fully licensed mental health professionals willing to work with this population, which will also address the aging-out of mental health professionals in Texas. (The cost for this change could be handled through existing Medicaid allocations to reduce waiting lists and expand services. It would require a rule change (agency) and may require legislative action.)
  • Expand the focus of this report to include access to services provided in educational settings. Professional school counselors in Texas are required to hold at least a master’s degree, have two years of teaching experience and pass a unique certification exam. Through individual planning and responsive services, they often provide the link between students struggling with psycho-social-emotional issues and mental health services. Mental health professionals working in the counseling offices of Texas universities and community colleges provide a similar service.

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