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.
The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) defines telehealth as “the use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support long-distance clinical healthcare, patient and professional health-related education, public health and health administration.” Evidence supports the use of telehealth as an innovative means to overcome challenges in accessing behavioral health services, however, behavioral health professionals note training as a major barrier to the utilization of telehealth.
Thus, this study will identify the types of training needs among behavioral health professionals to foster the use of behavioral telehealth.
The telebehavioral health landscape fundamentally changed owing to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent policy and regulatory reforms. The rapid adoption of telebehavioral health services by providers has helped to engage and maintain clients in behavioral health services, which are especially critical during times of national crisis such as a pandemic. Telebehavioral health providers’ experiences since the onset of the pandemic offer valuable information related to the workforce challenges and opportunities related to adopting, implementing, and sustaining telebehavioral health.
Nearly all respondents (99%) reported that their organizations introduced new or expanded existing telebehavioral health services in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and a majority (79%) of the organizations plan to continue to offer telebehavioral health beyond the pandemic period.
Training was identified as a major need and facilitator for the successful transition to telebehavioral health; however, training topics identified focused less on the technical aspects of employing technology and more so on how to adapt and integrate evidence-based, trauma-informed, and culturally relevant strategies within virtual settings.