Mental health workers shortage has created a growing healthcare crisis

Gayle Fisher is a mother of two, navigating her Texas communities the mental health resources space. She says she's always struggled to find resources, but her struggle has become worse in recent years. 

"Texas is dying for extra help to the family.. Even in the county in which we live, there not enough resources. I have mom friends, and we just get together ourselves and we debrief, and we share our resources" Fisher said. 

Fisher and her friends are among tens of thousands of Texans struggling to find help. Jamie Freeny with Mental Health America of Greater Houston says the need for mental health resources in her community far outweighs the availability. 

"Texas, according to Mental Health America, ranks last when it comes to children’s mental health services" Dr. Freeny said. 

Texas isn’t alone. There is a nationwide shortage of mental health professionals, but it’s worse for children and teenagers. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry says nearly 1 in 5 children experience a mental health issue, but only about 20% receive care.

Across the nation, every state either faces a high or severe shortage of mental health workers.

"Some families will have to travel 1 or 2 hours just to meet in person with a mental health professional, which means there are other barriers and challenges that they have to overcomes such as childcare, taking off of work, and transportation" Dr. Freeny said.

Melissa Whitson, PH.D studies behavioral health. She says the pandemic worsened the shortage because mental health workers experienced burnout as their caseloads increased. She says if this shortage continues, it may put families at risk.

"It increases the risk that we get mental health, health issues, challenges, behavioral challenges, substance abuse, juvenile justice involvement, all those negative outcomes that we want to avoid and prevent," Dr. Whitson said. 

Last Friday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced about $25 million would be used to expand primary healthcare, including mental health services in schools. For the first time, applicants will be required to add or expand mental health services to receive school-based funding.