The behavioral health workforce isn’t large enough to meet current demand, according to experts, and it is particularly under-resourced for LGBTQ+ patients and people of color, who are not adequately represented in the current workforce despite disproportionate need for treatment. Meanwhile, poor pay and too-high workloads offer little incentive for behavioral health providers to enter insurance networks, driving up costs for patients and stymieing plans’ attempts to comply with mental health parity and network adequacy requirements.
George Washington University (GWU) researchers maintain the only comprehensive database tracking the number of behavioral health providers in the US. They released their first data in 2022 and published an article in Health Affairs that August. According to an April slide deck prepared by GWU researchers Clese Erikson and Randl Dent, Ph.D., there are currently 1.3 million mental health care providers in the U.S. — a figure that includes over 600,000 prescribers of psychotropic drugs and medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD).