Governor DeWine Announces Proposal for $85M Investment to Grow Ohio’s Behavioral Healthcare Workforce

(COLUMBUS, Ohio)—Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, joined by Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) Director Lori Criss and Ohio Department of Higher Education Chancellor Randy Gardner and various leaders of Ohio’s behavioral healthcare and higher education communities today announced a plan to increase the number of behavioral healthcare providers to meet growing demand.

“The health and success of Ohio’s families and communities depends on our ability to recruit, train, and retain the best talent to ensure Ohio has the most robust behavioral health workforce possible,” said Governor DeWine. “Behavioral health care workers are a valued and vital part of our healthcare system, and our efforts today are focused on helping to quickly infuse more qualified professionals into behavioral health care workplaces throughout the state. I look forward to working with the General Assembly, Ohio’s providers, and our colleges and universities on this innovative plan.”

The planned investment of $85 million of federal funds gives the state an opportunity to make education more attainable and affordable for students committed to behavioral healthcare careers. The funding will be dedicated to enhancing paid internship and scholarship opportunities for students working to achieve behavioral health certifications and degrees at Ohio’s two- and four-year colleges and universities and other educational career development settings. It will also help remove financial barriers from obtaining licenses, certifications, and exams necessary for employment in these careers; support providers in their ability to supervise and offer internships and work experiences; and establish a Technical Assistance Center to help students navigate the federal and state funding opportunities available to them.

Over twenty percent of Ohioans live with a mental health condition or substance use disorder, and nearly 2.4 million Ohioans live in communities that do not have enough behavioral health professionals. A study completed in 2021 by OhioMHAS, the Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation, InnovateOhio, and Deloitte found that the demand for behavioral healthcare services in Ohio increased 353% from 2013-2019 while the workforce increased only 174% over the same time period.

“The lack of trained, qualified professionals is the number one concern we hear from mental health and addiction providers around Ohio,” said Director Criss. “This problem is not unique to our state, but we have a unique opportunity to create pathways to recruit new talent into our rapidly growing field of healthcare. This investment will put additional doctors, nurses, counselors, therapists, social workers, and other critical personnel into our communities in the next one to two years and expand, enhance, and strengthen our ability to care for Ohioans living with mental health and substance use disorders.”

The Administration is working collaboratively across state agencies to achieve full approval from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for the expenditure of these home and community based care American Rescue Plan Act funds as well as with the General Assembly on the most effective way to make the federal funding quickly available. Additional details of the plan will be shared in the coming weeks. This initial $85 million investment is part of the $212 million available in the Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) Workforce Development Strategic Fund through the Ohio Department of Medicaid as part of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Earlier this year, the Administration shared plans to invest these dollars in provider relief, workforce, and technology and systems enhancements.

“Work experience and internships are often required for degree completion, but that experience is often unpaid, placing a heavy financial burden on students who are working hard to obtain a degree and possibly delaying their entrance into the workforce,” said Chancellor Gardner. “By expanding available funding for paid internships, scholarships, and the costs of obtaining licensure or certification, we are helping them obtain their degrees more quickly and affordably. I greatly appreciate the willingness and commitment of Ohio’s colleges and universities to help more students enter the behavioral healthcare workforce successfully.”

This investment will also fund recruitment and retention bonuses for students who commit to employment with Ohio’s community mental health and addiction centers which provide care, treatment, and services to Ohio’s Medicaid-eligible population.

Once the proposal is finalized and approved and funding is appropriated, the program will be administered through the Ohio Department of Medicaid in partnership with the Ohio Department of Higher Education and the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.