Letter: COVID exposed shortage of mental health workers
May 8, 2021
We have a shortage of mental health workers
To the Editor: The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and made worse New Hampshire’s ongoing mental health workforce shortage. The shortage is causing longer wait times for patients to be treated, overburdened emergency room departments in our local hospitals, and burnout for community mental health workers.
It has been over a year now that we have endured the trauma and isolation of the pandemic. Sadly, for nearly as long, I have been on the waitlist for treatment from my local community mental health center. I have experienced firsthand how the workforce shortage leads to longer wait times for patients to be treated and the burnout it causes for community mental health staff. For those in need of inpatient mental health care, there are simply not enough providers. ERs across the state have become overburdened by those in need of immediate care, keeping those in crisis in ER beds for weeks to months without access to the appropriate mental health treatment.
When Granite Staters cannot access the health care they need, our entire state suffers. To build a health care workforce capable of ensuring a healthy and thriving state, critical investments are necessary to help recruit and retain behavioral health care workers who are currently unable to afford to live in our state and provide the services our communities desperately need.
This is why I urge our lawmakers to expand funding for the Student Loan Repayment Program for health care professionals working in underserved areas of our state and to support adequate Medicaid reimbursement rates.