Alarming Workforce Shortage Facing Youth Mental Health Care Workers

Original article written by Yvette Bairan for the Gotham Gazette.



Capacity and workforce retention have always been a challenge in the human services field, with providers expected to do more with less and families facing increasingly longer backlogs and wait times for appointments. With the ongoing pandemic, the children’s mental health workforce, like so many others, has been struggling to keep up with demand.


Statistics show that 1 in 6 U.S. youth experience a mental health condition each year, but only half get treatment. In addition, 59.6% of youth with major depression do not receive any treatment. At Astor Services for Children & Families, over 50% of Bronx program participants identify as Hispanic. This means that besides the need for enhanced salaries to retain and attract competent staff, the organization, like many others, also need to provide culturally and linguistically sensitive services.


Agencies like Astor Services are working miracles to recruit and retain talented employees but are having a tough time competing with city agencies like the Department of Education and for-profit competitors (some even located outside NY), that in some cases can offer twice the salary and benefits. Remote employment, COVID-19 health concerns and other unprecedented back-to-work factors are further complicating matters of employee retention and satisfaction.


To turn around this current trend in underemployment, public investments must be made. They also need to allow employers sustainable reimbursement rates to be able to compete with larger entities and providers. Expanding funding and reimbursements for outpatient and school-based health clinics will enable organizations to reach more clients and families and allow them to partner with and integrate mental health within school buildings through a hybrid format (both in-person and tele-health) as needed by clients and staff.


With public awareness, there is optimism for organizations to secure increased funding to continue to further develop a multicultural mental health workforce that will provide the vital services for our most vulnerable children and families.


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