Behavioral Health: The Real Cost of an Unfilled Position

If you think you’ve broken your leg, everyone, including yourself (hopefully), would agree that you should go straight to the emergency room to get help, and there would be zero amounts of shame associated with seeking out that kind of help. The same applies for any issues related to your arms, hands, feet, legs, skin, or anything else attached to your body. However, seeking or being open about needing help for anxiety, depression, psychosis, or any symptoms that stem from the brain has long been met with undue shame within the person experiencing those symptoms or perceived shame from others. Thankfully, though, things seem to be changing, and the puzzling, harmful dichotomy between physical and mental health in the United States shows serious signs of dissolving. 

A variety of factors have lead to a dramatic increase in the number of people in the U.S. seeking treatment for all matters of issues related to their mental health. As unfair stigmas surrounding mental health treatment steadily break down, people have begun to treat their mental health, much like their physical health. As we mentioned in a previous blog, demand for Board Certified Behavior Analysts alone between 2010 and 2017 grew by an incredible 800% nationwide.

While this trend is indicative of something overwhelmingly positive for the health of the overall population, there remain still significant barriers with the potential to stymie the rate of progress. Unfortunately, hospital systems around the country are woefully understaffed to meet this surging demand for behavioral health services. Two-thirds of primary care physicians report difficulty referring patients for mental health care, twice the number for any other specialty. Furthermore, the number of patients going to emergency departments seeking psychiatric services over a recent three-year period increased by 42%, according to the National Council for Behavioral Health. 

Revenue Loss

The systemic and chronic staffing shortages can carry heavy financial losses for many organizations across the country. In 2016 alone, the mental health and substance abuse industry in the United States had a combined annual revenue of over $50 billion with 14,000 facilities nationwide, and the global behavioral health market size is expected to balloon to $240 billion by just 2026. However, this expected growth running headlong into a severe talent shortage—the Health Resources and Services Administration predicts that the United States will have to generate approximately 250,000 additional behavioral health professions to properly meet demand by 2025. Having open positions remain unfilled can potentially cost a facility thousands of dollars daily in lost revenue.

Entirely new facilities are being opened up all across the country, offering a substantial variety behavioral health services, and in a country where 111 million people reside in areas with a mental health professional shortage, and more than half of its counties have zero psychiatrists at all, this phenomenon is very welcomed. These facilities will have to leverage every avenue possible to ensure they have enough staff to service the demand. 


One avenue being consistently utilized to help address behavioral health issues amidst a talent shortage is telemedicine or more specifically in this case, telepsychiatry. Proving its value in providing effective and accessible behavioral health treatment, an increasing number of organizations are continuing to implement telemedicine to help curb the need in light of staffing shortages—especially in rural areas. 

As the technology supporting the service has steadily advanced, telehealth has become a reliable service for patients living in areas far from the nearest mental health professional, as well those too burdened by associated stigmas to seek out traditional help from the convenience and privacy of their home. 

Partnering with a specialized recruitment firm

Coinciding with the boom in demand for behavioral health talent is a near-record low unemployment rate in the country. Healthcare organizations are in a mad-dash to identify, attract, and then outcompete an ever-increasing list of competitors to acquire the top behavioral health talent they need.

In such an ultra-competitive and difficult hiring landscape, any sort of competitive advantage can be extremely valuable. At Healthcare Recruiters International (HCRI), our team of recruiting experts maintains a robust network of behavioral health talent. Whether it’s a BCBA or CEO, the industry experts at HCRI have a proven record of connecting top talent with great healthcare organizations. 

Call us today to learn how we can leverage our industry experience and expansive network to overcome any hiring challenge facing you.