The behavioral health field in the United States has contended with workforce challenges for many years, especially in the public sector, with rural and frontier areas often experiencing the greatest challenges. However, recent historical developments have exacerbated our workforce challenges to an extreme level. The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent social isolation increased the demand for behavioral health services, particularly among youth and young adults. Growing public awareness about the importance of mental health and decreased stigma related to receiving services has led to more help-seeking. In addition, the roll-out of 988, the national 3-digit suicide and crisis lifeline, resulted in another important wave of public education and presented an easy avenue to seek help. This combination of factors has burdened an already strained behavioral health workforce and created a very competitive market for behavioral health professionals. As a result, we are witnessing increases in emergency department boarding among individuals with behavioral health concerns, waitlists for inpatient psychiatric services, and individuals with complex needs falling through the cracks in the system. Read more