Behavioral Health Workforce Projections

The 21st Century Cures Act (PDF - 930 KB) mandated that we conduct analyses (PDF - 270 KB) on the adult and pediatric mental health and substance abuse disorder workforce.

Workforce Projections and Estimates of New Entrants

We generated national-level health workforce estimates for the health workforce for the following behavioral health occupations between 2016 and 2030:

We also generated state-level projections of supply and demand for behavioral health occupations from 2016 to 2030.

We estimated the number of new entrants into the behavioral health workforce between 2016 and 2021.

Why are behavioral health workforce providers essential?

The nation’s workforce of mental health and substance use disorder providers is critical to providing Americans with access to essential health care services.

As the opioid crisis continues, we are analyzing the size and distribution of this workforce, both today and in future years. Read more about our efforts to combat the opioid crisis.

The need for a robust behavioral health workforce is clear.

  • A 2017 report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found that nearly one in five adults in the United States—44.7 million people—suffered from a mental illness in the past year.
  • In 2016, 28.6 million people aged 12 or older used an illicit drug in the past 30 days, corresponding to about 1 in 10 Americans overall and 1 in 4 among young adults aged 18 to 25. Illicit drug use is driven primarily by marijuana use and the misuse of prescription pain relievers.
  • An estimated 11.8 million people misused opioids in the past year, including 11.5 million pain reliever misusers and 948,000 heroin users. About 116 people each day die from opioid-related drug overdoses in the United States.

Beyond the direct toll on individuals and families, mental illness and substance use disorders are well-established drivers of disability, mortality, and healthcare costs.

Past Behavioral Health Workforce Reports

2016

National Projections of Supply and Demand for Selected Behavioral Health Practitioners: 2013-2025 (PDF - 437 KB)

2015

Health Workforce Projections: Psychologists (PDF - 69 KB) 

Date Last Reviewed:  February 2019