HRPA Urges Congress to Increase Access to Mental Health, Substance Abuse Providers

By D. Mark Wilson posted 02-17-2023 00:00


HR Policy Association advised Congress to pass legislation to alleviate the shortage of mental health and substance use disorder providers and improve access to mental health care services.

The Association’s letter noted that reducing the shortage of mental health and substance use disorder providers is critically important for patients seeking timely and affordable treatment, particularly in rural areas.  Recommended actions included increasing access to tele-behavioral health services by eliminating cross-state border restrictions and increasing funding to expand integrated care and collaborative care models.

The letter highlighted several actions large employers have taken to improve access to behavioral health providers and services, including:

  • Providing enhanced employee assistance programs in addition to their health plan mental health benefits,

  • Expanding mental health navigation programs, tele-behavioral health benefits, and center-of-excellence providers, and

  • Contracting with third parties to supplement existing vendors and broaden access.   

But the fundamental problem remains a severe shortage of providers that is projected to increase. According to the Health Resources and Services Administration, 158.4 million Americans live in 6,599 Mental Health Professional Shortage Areas and 7,957 additional behavioral health (BH) practitioners are needed to fill these provider gaps.

Outlook: Bipartisan support for improving access to mental health providers could result in some Association recommendations moving on larger “must pass” bills.