The behavioral health workforce functions in a wide range of prevention, health care, and social service settings. These settings include prevention programs, community-based programs, inpatient treatment programs, primary care health delivery systems, emergency rooms, criminal justice systems, schools, or higher education institutions. This workforce includes, but is not limited to:
- Social workers
- Advanced practice psychiatric nurses
- Marriage and family therapists
- Certified prevention specialists
- Addiction counselors
- Mental health/professional counselors
- Psychiatric rehabilitation specialists
- Psychiatric aides and technicians
- Paraprofessionals in psychiatric rehabilitation and addiction recovery fields (e.g., case managers, homeless outreach specialists, or parent aides)
- Peer support specialists
- Recovery coaches
Although the field is growing due to increases in insurance coverage for mental health and substance use services and the rising rate of military veterans seeking behavioral health services, serious workforce shortages exist for health professionals and paraprofessionals across the United States. To support anticipated demands, the SAMHSA-Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Center for Integrated Health Solutions (CIHS) promotes the development of integrated, bidirectional primary and behavioral health services to better address the needs of people with mental health and substance use conditions. HRSA-CIHS also provides guidelines on how to provide culturally relevant services.
Being culturally competent and aware is to be respectful and inclusive of the health beliefs and attitudes, healing practices, and cultural and linguistic needs of different population groups. Behavioral health practitioners can bring about positive change by better understanding the differing cultural context among various communities, and being willing and able to work within that context. For more information on this important issue, refer to the SAMHSA Office of Behavioral Health Equity.
SAMHSA is at the forefront of helping the behavioral health workforce implement and use new and evolving practices and technologies. To facilitate the readiness of behavioral health organizations to compete in this environment, SAMHSA created the BHbusiness Plus Initiative, which works with hundreds of behavioral health providers across the nation.
Developing the sector of the workforce trained to prevent and treat substance use disorders is one of SAMHSA’s highest priorities. CSAP recognizes the need to strengthen the prevention field by increasing the number of qualified prevention professionals.