January 19, 2023
Greater Investment in the Behavioral Healthcare Workforce Is Needed for the Wellbeing of New Jersey’s Diverse Population
A March 2022 report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration shows that the nationwide number of behavioral health social workers and caseworkers is only 55% of the optimal number required to meet the ever-increasing level of need and demand for their services. The percentages of psychiatrists, advanced practice nurses and peer support specialists are also significantly lower than needed.
“Behavioral health workers are Partners in Care for children, youth and adults of every nationality, race, ethnicity, culture and age in New Jersey. They literally save lives and empower individuals to greatly improve their quality of life. Though they are an essential workforce, they are drastically underpaid,” said Debra L. Wentz, PhD, President and CEO of the New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies (NJAMHAA). “The recruitment and retention crisis is worst in the behavioral healthcare field versus other industries because the remuneration is so low. Many clinicians and other staff are leaving at a time when demand for their critical services continues to exponentially increase.”
NJAMHAA’s new campaign, Diverse Faces: Partners in Care, illustrates the value of mental health care, substance use disorder (SUD) treatment and other supportive services —such as legal services, childcare, supportive housing, supported education and supported employment — and the critical importance of the individuals who provide these essential services for New Jerseyans of all ages and backgrounds. In the campaign publication and five accompanying videos, behavioral healthcare staff and the individuals they serve describe how the clinical treatment and other supports are enabling them to progress in their recovery from SUD and mental illnesses and achieve individualized goals, such as family reunification, education and employment.