Employment in Office-Based and Intensive Behavioral Health Settings in the U.S., 2016-2021

There has been a rise in demand for behavioral health services during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a new JAMA Network research letter, investigators from Weill Cornell Medicine and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health analyzed trends in behavioral health employment before and after the pandemic using the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages data.

The study revealed employment in intensive behavioral health (mental illness and substance use disorder) settings serving people with complex treatment needs has not recovered from losses incurred during the pandemic. "In the early phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations providing intensive mental health and substance use disorder treatment lost significant staff," said lead author Dr. Matthew D. Eisenberg, associate professor of health policy and management at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. "Staffing still had not rebounded to expected levels by the end of 2021." In the fourth quarter of 2021, employment was 6.9% below the level expected without disruption to pre-pandemic trends. "Our findings are particularly concerning given that the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the need for high-intensity services to treat mental illness and substance use disorder," said senior author Dr. Beth McGinty, chief of the division of health policy and economics.

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