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State needs to address mental health workforce shortage, advocates say

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  • Staff Report 

New York lawmakers and advocates are urgently addressing the critical shortage in the state’s mental health workforce. Glenn Liebman, CEO of the Mental Health Association in New York State, emphasized the need for significant action as the state approaches budget negotiations. Advocates are pushing for a 3.2% cost of living increase for mental health professionals, aligning with the consumer price index, to mitigate the workforce crisis described as a “tsunami.”

State Senator Samra Brouk, chair of the Mental Health Committee, highlighted the importance of removing barriers for social workers, particularly those affecting Black and Latino graduates. Brouk is co-sponsoring the Social Work Workforce Act to eliminate the state licensing exam requirement, aiming to diversify and expand the workforce. Additionally, proposals for student loan debt relief and improved access to mental health services through insurance are being considered as solutions to attract more professionals to the field.

The push for more mental health professionals coincides with the allocation of $20 million in funding by Governor Kathy Hochul to expand school-based mental health clinics. While this investment marks a significant step forward, the effectiveness of these initiatives is contingent upon addressing the workforce shortage. Without enough qualified professionals, the potential impact of these programs on issues like self-harm awareness may be limited, underscoring the urgent need for comprehensive strategies to recruit and retain mental health workers.