New AHP Index Measures Gap Between BH Workforce and Need for Services

To measure the gap between the size of the behavioral health (BH) workforce and the demand for treatment, AHP has developed a proprietary index called the Provider Availability Index (PAI) and released preliminary findings entitled, The Adequacy of the Behavioral Health Workforce to Meet the Need for Services.

Based on estimates of the size of the BH labor force using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) prevalence estimates for 2010, the PAI is a new standardized metric that measures the adequacy of the BH labor force nationally and by state, separately for substance use disorder (SUD), serious mental illness (SMI), and any mental illness (AMI). It measures the ratio of the size of the labor force to the prevalence estimates per 1,000 individuals.1

National PAI estimates for 2010 data show:

  • PAI for AMI: 13.4 providers per thousand
  • PAI for SMI: 53.4 providers per thousand; and
  • PAI for SUD: 32.1 providers per thousand.

Even more telling is the individual state data. For example, Nevada (10.8) and Georgia (17.3) are two states in the bottom quartile that have a PAI for SUD substantially lower than the national average.

The scope of these market imbalances indicate the need for federal and state agencies to develop an Infrastructure Policy Framework that will guide the coordination of public investments in the behavioral health workforce and support provider management of human resources. The 2010 numbers will be used as benchmarks, and AHP expects to promote the PAI to policy makers and others who want to track or improve the behavioral health workforce.

The following stories offer additional coverage of AHP’s PAI tool and results:

AHP plans to release the full findings from the PAI in September, 2014.2

1 As a new measure, AHP is working to refine it with respect to: a large shares of psychiatrists do not accept third party payments; not all Advanced Practitioners and Practitioners are licensed by their state to provide services; a disproportionately large share of providers work in Outpatient Care Centers, or individual and group practices, while many with a SUD disorder require in-patient treatment; and the impact of care integration has not been addressed.

2 Forthcoming publication, “The Behavioral Health Workforce: Will Provider Capacity be Sufficient to Meet Service Demand?” AHP Working Papers on Behavioral Health Infrastructure, September, 2014.

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