As hospitals and health systems better integrate behavioral and physical health, it is critical to ensure that patients and communities have access to the right providers to take care of behavioral health needs now and in the future. There are seven steps hospital leaders can take to strengthen their behavioral health care workforce: 

  • Assess the current workforce and patient population to find the gaps between what the community’s needs are and the type of providers needed to care for them. 
  • Ensure the workforce is knowledgeable about the social determinants of health in the community and about cultural competence.
  • Train health care providers in behavioral health screening techniques, as well as trauma informed care.
  • Set up a procedure of assessment, treatment and referral that happens at the site of the initial visit, if possible.
  • Use interprofessional education and team-based training to integrate physical and behavioral health care.
  • Partner with higher education programs in the community to enhance recruitment and retention of behavioral health care providers.
  • Engage the community to strengthen care transitions and better integrate behavioral health care into the community. 

Details on these steps and more are included in a report released today by the AHA that looks at how hospitals and health systems are bridging the gap between the need for behavioral health care in their communities and a shortage of trained specialists. “The State of the Behavioral Health Workforce: A Literature Review” provides a look at the current workforce challenges and opportunities facing hospitals and health systems as well as examples of how to integrate behavioral and physical health in new and innovative ways. 

The new report and additional resources on hospital and health system workforce issues are available at aha.org