AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - The Texas Department of State Health Services reports 80 percent of Texas counties have a shortage in the behavioral health workforce.
When compared to the rest of the state, those struggling with mental health issues in our area are just as under-served.
“There was a recent report that was updated to the state’s strategic health plan where it shows all the shortage areas, and for us in the Texas Panhandle, 24 of our 26 counties area reported as having a shortage,” said Executive Director of the Panhandle Behavioral Health Alliance Sridevi Veeramachaneni.
Mental health professionals such as psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers are included in that workforce shortage.
Potter and Randall counties are the only counties in our region not designated as shortage areas because each has at least 30,000 residents-per-clinician.
“We do have more providers in the Amarillo area and that’s where most of the resources are localized,” said Veeramachaneni.
The Panhandle Behavioral Health Alliance is an organization dedicated to working with providers to improve access to mental health care.
“Our strategic priorities are to look at prevention and early intervention so that people are seeking out treatment sooner rather than later, and also to look at integrating behavioral health with physical health and also addressing the workforce shortage,” said Veeramachaneni.
She believes it starts with providing more opportunities for education.
“More people pursuing mental health degrees or mental health professions, having nurses with a psychiatric focus; that would be additional help as well,” said Veeramachaneni.
The Panhandle Behavioral Health Alliance anticipates a new program with their partners at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center to be one of many ways to help fill that gap.
“The Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center is working on a residency program starting up soon, potentially as early as next year. So if we do that, then that would allow for much more providers within the community as many as 16 providers,” said Veeramachaneni.
“It’s going to be a long-term change, it’s not going to happen overnight. Everybody is trying to do their best to come to the table and address those issues,” said Veeramachaneni.