Mental Health Workforce Development Steering Committee

This committee was created by the Minnesota Legislature in the 2013 session to address needs for mental health workers across the spectrum of providers. Currently all of Minnesota except the Twin Cities and southeastern Minnesota (Mayo) are considered mental health provider shortage areas. The project is being managed by HealthForce Minnesota, the Minnesota Department of Health, and the Minnesota Department of Economic and Educational Development. The steering committee will be doing some advanced research to prepare for a summit or meeting of stakeholders that will be held on May 28, 2014 at Hennepin Technical College. The steering committee is comprised of representatives of professions, the Minnesota Department of Health, the Minnesota Department of Human Services, higher education programs specific to mental health, and private and public higher education representatives.

Several previous efforts have looked at workforce issues in mental health, including an MMHAG group in 2008, through a mental health needs assessment, and as part of the governor’s task force on health reform. The needs consistently highlighted were prescribers, especially for children and adolescents, mental health professionals that can provide supervision to mental health practitioners and those seeking licensure, culturally specific providers for underserved populations, and all providers in greater Minnesota. The primary approach to addressing shortages has been to offer tuition reimbursement and loan repayment. While there has been some use of these programs, they have not proved to be an effective tool. Additional slots have been added to the psychiatry residency program at the University of Minnesota and this has led to an increase in psychiatric providers. Efforts to ease the process of using foreign-trained psychiatrists has also been effective. Some primary care physicians have used the prescribing consultation service administered through the Department of Human Services for the care of children and adolescents to assist in providing services to this population in a primary care environment. In the 2013 legislative session, training programs in psychology and social work were added to the list of those able to access Medical Education and Research Costs (MERC) funding. Monies available for training through the Affordable Care Act do not appear to have been accessed by Minnesota training programs. It is too early to assess the impact of this extension of MERC funding.

Data gathering prior to the summit will include consumer experience of how their provider needs are met, standard information from state and federal employment records, and a more creative collection of data about the “unseen” workforce that provides many services in the mental health area (families, schools, community workers.) The HealthForce Minnesota staff will be meeting with stakeholders across the state in advance of the summit.

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