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Jacquelyn Sommer

Manager, Policy and Advocacy

BHECON Hosts First Statewide Forum in Missouri

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States and the federal government need to take action to address the behavioral health workforce shortage in America. That was the key take away attendees heard at the first Behavioral Health + Economics (BHECON) forum, held in St. Louis, Missouri August 4.  The Missouri Coalition for Community Behavioral Healthcare, BHECON’s partner in Missouri, led a dynamic discussion about recruitment and retention problems for clinics and possible solutions such as the Excellence in Mental Health Act.


Panelists at the forum discussed the acute need for more behavioral health professionals, citing data from their own businesses about their numerous vacancies and the considerable amount of lost revenue for each vacant position.  Providers also discussed the difficulties in recruiting and retaining staff at all levels, from community support staff to psychiatrists.  Meanwhile, presenters from graduate programs in social work and nursing shared their recent efforts to ensure graduate training programs equip students with the skills needed in today’s workforce.


Throughout the day, panelists shared their perspectives on state and federal policy solutions that would bolster the behavioral health workforce.  All agreed that the possibility for Missouri to participate in the Excellence Act demonstration program would have the greatest impact in addressing the workforce shortage.  Should Missouri be selected as one of the eight states to participate, providers would be able to build in competitive salaries into their reimbursement rate and they would be in a stronger position to increase the amount of staff providing the multitude of critical services CCBHC’s are required to provide. Another key change that would immediately expand the state’s capacity to serve more individuals would involve expanding the scope of practice for Advanced Practice Nurses. Currently in Missouri, APN’s do not have the autonomy to prescribe many medications and must work under the supervision of a physician.


BHECON forums are designed to bring together diverse stakeholders in data-driven discussions on needed policy reforms to support behavioral health. Forums will continue throughout the year in five states, with the next forum scheduled for August 17th in Kansas City. That forum will cover issues related to expanding crisis care services and will involve discussion about collaborating with law enforcement professionals. For more information about BHECON, visit our website at