Capacity of Virginia’s Licensed Behavioral Health Workforce

The Virginia Health Care Foundation’s Assessment of the Capacity of Virginia’s Licensed Behavioral Health Workforce uses state and national sources to provide a comprehensive picture of the capacity, distribution and demographics of the Commonwealth’s licensed BH workforce. It also includes insights from interviews with leaders of Virginia’s associations of licensed BH professionals and leaders of Virginia’s BH graduate programs.

Virginia regularly ranks at the top of national scorecards as the best state for business and a top state for public education. When it comes to availability of BH services, though, that is not the case. The Assessment includes details, like the highlights below, and provides some recommended solutions.

  • A large and disproportionate number of Virginia’s licensed BH professionals are at or nearing retirement age (61% of Psychiatrists are age 55 or older).
  • Virginia’s BH workforce does not reflect the racial and ethnic diversity of the Commonwealth’s population.
  • 93 of Virginia’s 133 localities are federally-designated Mental Health Professional Shortage Areas; 37% of Virginians (2 million) live in them. Two localities have no licensed BH professionals; 35 have no trained BH prescriber.
  • In many communities with no or a few BH professionals, a large number of households do not have broadband internet access and are unable to access tele-health services. One-in-five Virginians (20%) live in these communities.
  • Virginia localities with no or a few BH professionals have poorer outcomes on key BH indicators than localities with more BH professionals.
  • Although Virginia’s 40 graduate-level BH programs, combined, graduate nearly 800 individuals annually, the number who ultimately become licensed is insufficient to maintain even the current inadequate supply of BH professionals.

For more details about the capacity of Virginia’s BH workforce, please see:

Note:  Please cite the Foundation when using data from the Assessment of the Capacity of Virginia’s Licensed Behavioral Health Workforce. If using the maps showing the distribution of BH professionals in Virginia from the Assessment, please include the entire slide, including the VHCF logo.

What is the impact of living in a community with an inadequate supply of BH professionals?

While some Virginians living in localities with too few licensed BH professionals may travel elsewhere for BH services, there are consequences for communities with few or no BH professionals. These localities have much poorer outcomes on key BH indicators than the state as a whole, including:

  • A higher percentage of adults reporting frequent mental distress (14+ poor mental health days/month).
  • Adults report more mentally unhealthy days in the past 30 days.
  • The suicide rate exceeds the state rate.

For more information about the Assessment, methodology or findings, please contact Debbie Oswalt, VHCF Executive Director: doswalt@vhcf.org or Denise Daly Konrad, Director of Strategic Initiatives: dkonrad@vhcf.org.

Last Updated on January 12, 2022