EP in the DBJ: I’ll Trade You Social Change for Industry Imbalance

By Ashley Lane Boyle, Owner & Founder of Empowered Partnerships LLC

This article was published in The Denver Business Journal

May 26, 2017

The great industry shifts of our time are like a Recruiter’s search process for the Purple Squirrels; it’s an evolution.

Being in hiring and employment, trends fascinate me; what direction are things going, why and how does this affect us?

The mental health industry has certainly seen its fair share of highs and lows over the years, but more recent years have brought an imbalanced mix of supply and demand that’s confounded some social scientists.

Let’s look back.  2008 to 2010 I like to affectionately refer to as the “Employer Golden Years.”  During this period, employers were over the moon as the market was mainly driven in their favor.  Well-qualified mental health professionals seemed to be everywhere and many employers felt as if they had their pick of the best of the best.

Things began to shift in March 2010 with the successful passing of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  We quickly began to see a new breath of life being given to the mental health market as it seemed to recognize the need for mental health services to be included for all American’s health care.  With more of the population covered, the demand for services increased and therefore the number of jobs available for mental and behavioral health professionals grew with it.

At first, everyone was overjoyed as the mental health market finally seemed to be bringing itself into the social spotlight.  Unfortunately, that bubble quickly burst.  Jobs continued to open but the supply of professionals was not nearly able to keep up.  Employers quickly found themselves in a tough hiring spot, particularly when came to licensed mental health professionals.

New graduates and job-seekers entering into the mental health industry were increasing, but very slowly.  Not nearly enough to keep up with the demand.

You can think of it this way, if the demand for mental health services was Google, then the active job-seeker market would be AOL trying to keep up.

And it has not stopped there.

Since 2010, we have seen a building imbalance in the need for care and the supply of qualified workforce professionals to deliver those services to the community.

Today, mental health organizations are struggling to find qualified job-seekers to keep up with the need for services while sometimes also having to ask more of the employees they do have.

[blockquote text=”It seems to be the great irony of the ACA that we have recognized the need for mental and behavioral health services in health care.  Yet, we do not provide resolutions as to helping organizations and communities cope with the explosion of need and shortage in supply. ” text_color=”” width=”” line_height=”undefined” background_color=”” border_color=”” show_quote_icon=”no” quote_icon_color=””]

Sadly, the people most affected by this are the patients.

So, what’s next for this industry?

Its clear we need a multitude of solutions interworking together.  Yes, this will require more than just recruiting added mental health professionals into the field or even raising the reimbursement rates.  It goes much deeper than policy or politics.

This is about social change.

It’s about recognizing that mental health is a non-negotiable for everyone; that stigma is real and it’s hindering our ability to positively affect social change; and lastly but most importantly, its time we do something about it.

Daily, the media debates and deliberates endlessly about the latest changes to health care and the whole situation can at times appear to be Humpty-Dumpty sitting on a very thin wall, ready to teeter over one side or the other at any moment bringing the whole thing crashing down with him.

Don’t worry.  In all reality, this is not likely to happen.  However, it does intensify the need for each and every one of us to speak up on this issue.  Mental health is something that affects every single person living on this earth.

Have you ever felt ‘low’ or lost pleasure in something you used to find joy in?  Ever get in a panicky state or really stressed?  Then you have experienced mental health and just because you don’t have a ‘disorder’ or an ‘illness’ does not mean you are immune.  The majority of people are high functioning and do not recognize these instances as opportunities for mental health care.  We’ve been socially trained to think of it as simply just ‘life.’

Thankfully, this mindset is shifting with the industry.  Now more than ever, its important we all get activated about this issue.

While mental health is definitely a global issue, the best place to start is locally.  Begin by learning how your local government works and who would be best for you to contact (or “Who will care about my cause the most?”).  Create a message, get others involved, contact your legislators, build relationships with members of Congress and let your perspective be heard.  Remember to practice “PPS” in your communication: be Persistent, Personal, and Specific with your cause.  Phone calls always speak louder than emails, but in-person meetings will get you the most points.  No matter if you’re a Phone-Fanatic, an Email-Diva or an In-Person-Adventurer, make contact and communicate often.

Over time, each of our individual contributions will combine to blaze a trail for all American’s mental health care, today and in the future.

Thank you for reading!

Ashley Lane Boyle Founder Empowered Partnerships RPO Company

Ashley Lane Boyle, Owner & Founder of Empowered Partnerships LLC