The Behavioral Health Workforce Research Center is engaged in several projects designed to improve data collection, estimate workforce size and composition, and assess practice activities for all workers involved in prevention and/or treatment of mental health and substance use disorders. Center projects address three focus areas.

Current Research Projects

Effect of Utilization Management Restrictions on Patients’ Provider Access and Treatment for Opioid Dependence

In 2017, only 25% of individuals received one of three Food and Drug Administration approved medications effected at treating opioid use disorder (OUR) from a substance use disorder treatment facility, despite over half of drug overdose deaths involved an opioid. Utilization restrictions may be a significant coverage barrier to accessing these medications as treatment. 

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Examining the Use of and Workforce Being Financed by the Psychiatric Collaborative Care Model (CoCM) Codes

Integrated behavioral health (IBH) is an evidence-based model of care to ensure individuals have increased access to behavioral health screening, assessment, and treatment. In 2017, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released the Psychiatric Collaborative Care Management (CoMC) billing codes to support the growth of IBH. CMS also released CoCM G-codes for federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) to bill for behavioral health integration.

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Geographic Distribution of Behavioral Health Providers and Medicaid Reimbursement Rates

Medicaid is the largest single payer for behavioral health services, and managed care is the predominant delivery system for Medicaid enrollees. Medicaid financing facilitates access to behavioral health resources, including psychiatric care, counseling, prescription medications, inpatient treatment, case management and supportive housing; this access increased with mandates under the ACA and with Medicaid expansion in many states. However, states have the flexibility to decide if behavioral health providers and their services are reimbursable and subject to same-day billing restrictions.

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Identifying Systems Factors that Influence Workforce Capacity

The Health Resources and Services Administration developed projections to better understand behavioral health workforce needs by 2025. These projections predict that by 2025, each behavioral health profession will experience a shortage. Thus, there is a need to further investigate factors that impact behavioral health workforce capacity.

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Models of Behavioral Health Care

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) projects shortfalls of works across most occupations. However, these studies do not consider specific models of behavioral health care and how supply and demand estimates may change in the context of these alternative care models. Thus, this study seeks to collect and analyze data on four models of care to determine effects on workforce capacity.

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Peers in the Behavioral Health Workforce: Costs and Contributions

Peer support workers are individuals who have lived experience with mental illness and/or substance use disorder. Current studies have sought to determine the effectiveness of using peer support workers in the provision of behavioral health services, the results of which offer conflicting results, as well as weak evidence and a lack of methodological rigor.

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Supply of Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health Providers

One in six children aged two to eight in the United States have been diagnosed with a behavioral health disorder, and one in five adolescents ages thirteen to eighteen have experienced a severe mental disorder. Few of these children and adolescents receive mental health services, and even fewer receive treatment from a certified, American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) child psychologist.

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Workforce Development Opportunities to Advance Behavioral Telehealth

As the demand for behavioral health services and substance use disorder treatment increases, so does the amount of individuals not receiving mental health services or substance use disorder treatment. This lack of access is a result of barriers to behavioral health services coupled with inadequate funding, workforce capacity and maldistribution issues, and a lack of specialty services. In order to increase access, there is a demand for innovative ways to provide mental health and addiction services.

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Behavioral Health Provider Shortages and Reimbursement Parity

Lack of access to mental health professionals is growing problem for those relying on Medicaid and/or Medicare for health needs.  Behavioral health care is now considered the country’s most costly health condition, with an estimated annual cost…

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Behavioral Health Services Capacity of Primary Care Physicians

This project seeks to understand which behavioral health services primary care physicians currently provide for their clients and how often they do so.

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Behavioral Health Workforce Minimum Data Set for Mental Health Counselors

Mental health counselors are the third largest segment of the behavioral health workforce and represent a profession that is projected to grow by 23% through 2026.14 Enumeration estimates place these counselors at between 134,000 and 166,000, depending on the source.

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Financing Behavioral Health Integration and Collaborative Care Models

Novel approaches to providing access to behavioral health care, like collaborative care and integrated behavioral health primary and social care models, have shown short and long-term positive patient and family outcomes in frontier, rural, and urban communities. These approaches are complex and rely upon coordination…

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The Behavioral Health Workforce in Rural America: Developing a National Recruitment Strategy

Nationally, rural American communities have some of the largest need for behavioral health care providers and yet the lowest availability.

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Understanding Telemedicine’s Role in Providing Medication-assisted Treatment to Treat Opioid Use Disorders: Barriers, Facilitators, and Areas of Need

Opioid-related overdose deaths continue to climb, reaching 42,249 in 2016,37 reflecting the growing population with OUDs in need of treatment. Clinically MATs reduce the risk of OUD death by up to 50%. Yet access to MAT remains severely inadequate…

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Workforce Capacity and the Opioid Crisis: Focus on Shortage and Maldistribution

The goal of this study is to develop a quantitative workforce capacity score to better characterize shortage, maldistribution, and needed workforce resources to combat the growing opioid crisis in the United States.

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