Nonprofit addresses mental health workforce shortage

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PUEBLO, Colo. (KKTV) - The nonprofit Mental Health Colorado recently brought health care leaders around one table in Pueblo to brainstorm ideas on how to close the mental health workforce shortage and gap.

"There aren't enough people going into the field of providing mental healthcare and there is not enough people staying in that field. We are trying to find out how to close that gap," said president and CEO of Mental Health Colorado, Andrew Romanoff.

The issue came to the public's attention during the summer when the State Hospital in Pueblo found itself in danger of losing federal funding because there wasn't enough staff to serve the patients at the hospital.

Romanoff told 11 News reporter Adam Uhernik the problem doesn't just exist in Pueblo or even Colorado -- it's a nationwide shortage.

"There is a national shortage of mental health workers in part because the profession doesn't pay very well, in part because there aren't enough people going into this pipeline," Romanoff said.

More people are demanding mental health care, but Romanoff says the supply hasn't caught up

Local hospitals and other providers are looking at ways to help retain staff and attract recent graduates to come work at their facility.

"People are looking at loan forgiveness programs if you agree to provide mental healthcare. Also if you agree to go to a part of the state that is under served there are programs in place that will forgive your loans," Romanoff said.

In a press release, Mental Health Colorado says more than 1 million Coloradans experience a mental health or substance use disorder. Fewer than half get the care they need. That’s in part because of too few professionals engaging in mental health work.