Behavioral Health Workforce Development

Throughout the past 50 years the WICHE Mental Health Program has been actively engaged in mental health workforce development activities for the West. The program has extensive expertise in regional planning, consensus-building, and knowledge synthesis and dissemination.

In largely rural states, such as the majority of the WICHE states, there have been historical difficulties in recruiting and retaining an effective behavioral health workforce. The WICHE mental health program continually works with stakeholders to research individual state needs and help find ways in which to secure resources ensuring a well-trained and stable workforce.

The WICHE Mental Health Program has worked with the National Association of State Mental Helath Program Directors (NASMHPD) National Technical Assistance Center over the years on various workforce projects that focus on improving the behavioral health workforce of the rural West. These projects aim to encourage and promote the behavioral health workforce while building partnerships in rural mental health workforce development.

The 15 states that compose the WICHE West are America’s most rural states, and the professional shortages faced in the frontier areas of the West create a critical barrier to effectively meeting the mental health care needs of the region. The WICHE Mental Health Program works with member states’ public mental health systems and higher education to support system improvement and ensure a qualified mental health workforce.

WICHE has contracted with the National Technical Assistance Center to analyze the behavioral health workforce in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota and Iowa.

Generally, these projects include providing an analysis of mental health workforce supply and preparedness in each state, a white paper that reviews the rural workforce "picture" in each state, and convening a planning work group of public mental health and higher education leaders in the state to discuss the report and potential action agenda to address workforce issues.

The WICHE mental health staff have also worked extensively with the State of Alaska since 2005 to examine more closely the mental health workforce needs of Alaska and create a comprehensive mental health workforce development strategy.