mental health

Greater Investment in the Behavioral Healthcare Workforce Is Needed

NJAMHAA Launches “Diverse Faces: Partners in Care” Campaign

In the face of a behavioral health social worker and caseworker shortage, the New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies (NJAMHAA) has introduced a new campaign, Diverse Faces: Partners in Care, which illustrates the value and importance of such workers.

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 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.”

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.

“Kayla and the other staff were really there for me and I will forever be grateful,” said Stephanie Hover about Integrity House. “Stephanie successfully completed long-term residential care and she has moved on to a halfway house, where she is getting experience with job readiness, résumé writing and all those things that are going to help her be successful,” said Kayla Cheatum, LCSW, LCADC, Associate Director, Women’s Residential program. “We all have a common goal. We want everyone to be successful, healthy and happy. We are at a disadvantage financially and it affects workflow because we have a shortage right now with clinical staffing,” Cheatum added.

“Stephanie’s progress toward recovery and Kayla’s dedication to Stephanie are truly inspiring. Their story is one of many where members of our behavioral health workforce establish strong, trusting relationships with the individuals they serve and have a profound, positive influence on their lives,” Dr. Wentz stated. “There are countless successes achieved by New Jersey’s diverse residents as a result of the behavioral health services they receive. Organizations need more funding so they can pay staff the market-rate salaries they deserve and make many more successes possible.”

“New Jersey’s behavioral healthcare workforce is extremely compassionate, dedicated and effective for hundreds of thousands of New Jersey’s children, youth and adults of every age, race, ethnicity, culture, gender and religious group throughout the state,” Dr. Wentz stated. “Without a significant investment in the behavioral health workforce, many others like Stephanie will not be able to access the services they need and deserve to live their healthiest and most fulfilling lives possible,” Dr. Wentz added. “The behavioral health workforce makes an extraordinary impact not only on the lives of the individuals and families they serve, but also on New Jersey’s bottom line, as these mental health, substance use and other services prevent costly emergency room visits, hospitalizations, homelessness and situations that could lead to incarceration. Our Partners in Care help these individuals to become contributing members of their communities and taxpayers.”

Click here to view NJAMHAA’s advocacy campaign brochure and here to watch videos of Partners in Care and individuals they serve sharing the impact of the services.

To access more business news, visit NJB News Now.

Related Articles: