A critical gap

June 16, 2017

How do we recruit more mental health professionals — and retain those we have?

Those questions gained new urgency this month. A severe staffing shortage has plunged Colorado’s largest psychiatric hospital into turmoil.

Federal regulators have told the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo that its conditions pose an “immediate and serious threat to the health and safety of patients.” The institute will lose an estimated $12 million in Medicare and Medicaid funding — roughly 13 percent of its total operating budget — on June 28 unless it implements “sufficient corrective actions.”

The state is scrambling to meet that deadline, but the feds’ warning should have come as no surprise. CMHIP reports nearly 100 vacancies in its direct-care staff, one out of every seven such positions.

These vacancies reflect a broader challenge: Like other states, Colorado faces a large and growing gap in its mental health workforce. Closing that gap will likely require improvements in training, compensation, and work environments.

Those are among the solutions Mental Health Colorado and our partners are exploring. We welcome your suggestions, not a moment too soon.