FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Mental Health Specialists are looking to find solutions to a shortage of workers nationwide, specifically in Fort Wayne.
It’s a known issue across Indiana and comes as the Indiana Behavioral Health Commission sent their final report to the Indiana General Assembly. The report contains 56 pages including a thorough examination of Indiana’s behavioral health delivery system.
The need for more Behavioral Health and Mental Health Specialists is listed, with current challenges, barriers, and possible solutions included. Challenges mentioned include low wages and high caseloads resulting in burnout.
Janel Lane, Co-founder of Courageous Healing Incorporated, can attest to this.
“The demand is at an all time high and people who are entering into the field just hasn’t caught up to the level of need right now,” Lane said, “So there’s a lot of pressure for organizations and agencies to do the best they can to not get a wait list.”
Lane says it has been hard balancing the care of staff while trying to meet the need and demand of clients. She recalls a day that the phone at Courageous Healing rang once every seven minutes, with people wanting to register.
Cheryl Shepherd, Director of Human Resource at Bowen Center, says they are experiencing burn out, larger case loads, and longer wait times.
“We see a lot of people that are mission driven meeting their mission, but they’re also having a lot of issues with burnout and that’s hard to balance sometimes,” Shepherd said.
Lane says there’s a major need for funding support. Now that seeking help for mental health needs is being normalized, she sees more people wanting to enter into the field. That comes with more interns and associate level licensed specialist who insurance will not allow to bill for their services, which discourages them from continuing on.
There are also things that go into obtaining a license such as supervision hours in which interns have to pay out of pocket for. Lane says some people can not afford to do this.
So what can be done? The report suggests increasing Medicaid rates to support competitive hiring and retention, reducing barriers by expanding universal licensure recognition language to behavioral health licenses, and allowing funds for a student loan repayment program for behavioral health professionals who commit to working in Indiana and serving underserved communities.
Shepherd mentioned that she’d like to see the addition of offering telehealth and telephonic services, as well as reimbursement rates.
“I really think it’s important to increase that reimbursement rate that we’re getting for services we’re providing in order to be able to attract and retain the staff to provide high quality services,” Shepherd said.
Right now, Shepherd and Lane both say their organizations have created systems to work efficiently while meeting current demands. Shepherd says the Bowen Center is focusing on providing staff with the proper care in attempt to control burnout.
“Providing all of the services they need for their own self care, mental health care, and support,” Shepherd said, “Also making sure they have the training and education they need to provide those services, and continuing to recruit and find new talent and find those people who are mission driven that can come alongside and meet that need too.”
Lane says Courageous Healing is implementing a solution they came up with, the six session model which aims to provide brief therapy and trauma centered therapy.
“We tell our therapist to show up fully and authentically which gives them permission to show up and be fully themselves, it helps people trust them and then we get right to work so it doesn’t take three to six sessions to build rapport,” Lane said, “Clients if we’re helping to offset any costs of their counseling they start with six sessions. If they need more they can apply for more, however we aim to make an impact within those six sessions.”
Lane says because of this system, they rarely have a waiting list and are able to get people the help they need quicker.
“We have to stay on our toes and continue to innovate as the problems are changing, needs are changing, demand is changing, COVID changed a lot of things and we have to be flexible in the field,” Lane said.