ATLANTA—Voice’s for Georgia’s Children is pleased to announce the release of a report analyzing Georgia’s child and adolescent behavioral health workforce. The report is the result of a collaborative partnership that included support from seven private Atlanta-based foundations and serves as a complement to the work of the Commission on Children’s Mental Health, which was created by Governor Nathan Deal in 2017.
In Georgia, the behavioral health needs of children and adolescents are often unmet or undermet. This is underscored by the disturbing fact that in this state, suicide is the second leading cause of death for children ages 15 to 19, and the third for children ages 10 to 14.
Data presented in the report includes the following concerning facts:
- 80,000 students in grades six through 12 report they have seriously considered harming themselves.
- In 2017, the youngest child on record to have died by suicide was 9 years old.
- Pediatric mental health providers in the field tend to be significantly underpaid compared to industry standards.
While multiple factors contribute to the barriers to serving Georgia’s child and adolescent population, two of the most significant are that youth seldom receive behavioral health assessments (meaning that challenges often go undetected), and that there is a shortage in the workforce serving this population.
“Strengthening the behavioral health workforce will be critical to improving care and outcomes for Georgia’s kids,” said Erica Sitkoff, Executive Director of Voices for Georgia’s Children. “This report offers our first close examination of the need, challenges, and opportunities for forward movement. By understanding the gaps in the workforce, we can better plan for and act on improving it.”
According to the Mental Health of America’s The State of Mental Health in America, Georgia ranks 43rd on access to care and 48th mental health workforce availability. Further, graduate education programs and training in evidenced-based therapies are lacking for mental health professionals. The report offers a number of recommendations pertaining to evidence-based therapies, improving data, and recent graduates’ path to licensure.
“The Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD) serves as Georgia’s State Authority for children’s behavioral health, and we welcome the opportunity to make strategic improvements in our workforce,” said Judy Fitzgerald, DBHDD Commissioner and Co-Chair of the Commission on Children’s Mental Health. “This report, a product of public-private cooperation, is a timely asset. It has the potential to impact not only current efforts to recruit, educate, and train Georgia’s workforce, but can touch child well-being for generations to come.”