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Nebraska's behavioral health workforce has grown, but state still has shortage

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Despite growth in Nebraska’s behavioral health workforce, a new study has found that the state still has a shortage of professionals in the field.

Findings in the legislative report from the Behavioral Health Education Center of Nebraska, which is housed at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, showed a 33.5% increase in the behavioral health workforce across the state.

The study, which ran from 2010 to 2020, also showed a 32% increase in prescribers and a 39% increase in psychologists and mental health therapists.

Despite the overall growth, the report showed a shortage of behavioral health professionals across much of the state as well as an aging workforce.

Other highlights from the report include:

88 of Nebraska’s 93 counties met federal criteria marking them as having a shortage of mental health professionals.

29 counties lack any kind of behavioral health provider.

More than half of the behavioral health workforce is older than 50.

News that the workforce has grown is promising, said Marley Doyle, director of the Behavioral Health Education Center of Nebraska.

One in five Nebraskans has a mental health diagnosis or substance abuse disorder, Doyle said. Those numbers have increased because of the pandemic.

Marley Doyle

Marley Doyle

Last year, she added, overdose deaths in the state rose by 43%. And teachers have reported seeing many young people struggling with their mental health.

“So we know that there is a great need for behavioral health services. We also know that there are not enough behavioral health providers to meet this need,” Doyle said.

The Behavioral Health Education Center has several partnerships with graduate behavioral health training programs across the state and is working on improving access to behavioral health care.

The full report can be found at



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