Amid healthcare's increased efforts to integrate behavioral health into care delivery, there are several steps hospital leaders can take to strengthen their behavioral health workforce, according to a report from the American Hospital Association (AHA).
The aging population and healthcare workforce combine to make improved behavioral care particularly urgent, according to the report. Meanwhile the behavioral health workforce is diversifying at a significantly slower pace than the patient population at large. To strengthen the workforce, the report recommends several steps, including:
- Analyze current workforce and patient demographics to determine the gap between capabilities and needs
- Educate the workforce on cultural competency and social determinants of health
- Step up training on behavioral health screening and trauma-informed care
- Develop care procedures with the goal of completing them on-site at the first visit
- Integrate physical and behavioral care through team-based and interprofessional education
- Team up with local higher education programs for increased recruitment and retention
- Improve care transitions and reduce the risk of readmission through community engagement and integrating behavioral care into the community
The final step is particularly important, as workplace shortages by their nature require community cooperation to resolve, Pamela Thompson, the AHA's chief nursing officer, told Hospitals & Health Networks. For example, the Toms River, New Jersey-based Barnabas Health Institute of Prevention has enlisted recovering drug addicts to serve as "recovery specialists" in its efforts to address the substance abuse epidemic, according to the report. So far, they report a 70 percent success rate in convincing recent opioid overdose victims to enter treatment programs.
"This is not just a hospital issue; it's a community issue, and I think behavioral health provides us with an important window into the fact that care isn't just in a hospital or in a community," Thompson said. "For these patients, it encompasses the entire continuum."