Report: Rural Nebraska Needs More Mental Health Providers

Jan. 3, 2022, 4:30 p.m. ·

Woman in jean jacket talking to another person
The Behavioral Health Education Center of Nebraska reports the mental health workforce is aging, with more than half of the professionals in the field over age 50. (Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash)

Listen To This Story

A recent legislative report shows that, despite a 33.5% increase in the behavioral health workforce in the last 10 years, Nebraska is still not reaching demand, especially in rural areas.

The Behavioral Health Education Center of Nebraska reports 88 of 93 counties are mental health profession shortage areas. Director Dr. Marley Doyle said nearly 1 in 5 Nebraskans have a mental illness, and since the pandemic, rates of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse have increased.

"So the need was great before, and it's expected to be even greater since the pandemic," she said. "Now, the difficult thing is that we've seen an increase in the behavioral workforce, but we have not necessarily been able to keep up with the demand."

Dr. Doyle said there’s not enough people going into behavioral health careers, and out of the people who do choose that field, very few of them practice in rural areas. For example, about 25 kids are on a waiting list to see a therapist at Grand Island Senior High School.

"We just kind of feel like we're a mental health desert," said Robin Dexter, an Associate Superintendent for Student Services. "You know, just, we get more and more counselors all the time, but it’s still not enough."

The Behavioral Health Education Center of Nebraska said they’ve been working to meet mental health needs but still have a lot of work to do.