Behavioral Health Workforce Development
Development of a behavioral health workforce is a Statewide Project. The North Country Region 7 Integrated Delivery Network (IDN) Service Region has been designated by the US Department of Health and Human Service, Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) as a primary care and mental health professional shortage area. According to the 2016 County Health Rankings, the ratio of the population to primary care physicians is 860:1 in Coos County, and 1,109:1 in Carroll County. However, the more critical shortage is reflected in the ratio of the population to mental health providers, including psychiatrists, psychologists, licensed clinical social workers, counselors, marriage and family therapists, and advanced practice nurses, which for Coos County is 750:1 and 430:1 for Carroll County, as compared to the NH ratio of 390:1.
Recruitment of qualified behavioral health professionals poses unique challenges for our region. Our rural environment, lack of extracurricular activities for family members, and the sometimes limited options for career paths prevent people from moving here. We also face lower salaries compared to more urban areas, and the complexity of obtaining licensure when moving from other states is also a barrier.
North Country Health Consortium (NCHC), the Administrative Lead for the Region 7 IDN, has been a reputable resource for workforce development efforts spanning the last 17 years through NCHC’s Northern New Hampshire Area Health Education Center (NNH AHEC) program. The NNH AHEC aims to ensure rural challenges and solutions are included in workforce development policy both in New Hampshire and nationally.
Workforce Development initiatives will include:
- Continuing medical education and other training programs for all levels of North Country healthcare providers;
- Expanding opportunities for North Country young people to learn about pursue careers in the health professions;
- Engaging health profession students as well as middle and high school students;
- Providing rural clinical rotation experiences for health profession students through the “Live, Learn, and Play in Northern NH” program;
- Expand the role of the NNH AHEC to include a centralized effort to increase the behavioral health workforce by providing regional recruitment support, conducting regional training needs assessments to meet identified gaps, and providing technical assistance for navigating the complexities of licensure for professionals from outside of the state;
- Development of recruitment strategies to attract qualified behavioral health professionals by emphasizing the DHHS State Loan Repayment Program (SLRP) and the recent legislation (SB 424) to simplify and reduce reciprocity barriers in regard to out-of-state licensure;
- Creation of a streamlined and centralized approach to recruitment will create efficiencies and result in administrative cost-savings for IDN partner organizations;
- Broad outreach will be conducted, including state and national-level recruitment.
- Formalized recruitment strategies will allow for the necessary vetting of candidates to ensure qualified professionals are embraced by regional partners;
- Recruitment will also focus on expanding the diversity of the workforce, including persons in recovery, paraprofessionals, and practitioner extenders;
- The IDN will also rely on guidance from the statewide planning process to inform workforce recruitment and development efforts.