(Austin – March 8, 2017) Increasing the number of professionals to provide substance use treatment is the goal of a bill filed yesterday by Rep. Four Price (R-Amarillo). House Bill 3038 would add licensed chemical dependency counselors to the state’s existing loan repayment program for mental health professionals to address a critical shortage of providers.
“Texas hospitals appreciate Rep. Price’s commitment to improving access to mental health and substance use treatment for all Texans,” said Ted Shaw, president/CEO of the Texas Hospital Association. “HB 3083 is a crucial step toward strengthening our behavioral health workforce and addressing Texans’ acute substance abuse treatment needs.”
More than 80 percent of Texas counties have too few behavioral health providers to meet residents’ health care needs. Making licensed chemical dependency counselors eligible for loan repayment assistance would expand the substance use workforce and increase access to substance use treatment by incentivizing mental health professionals to practice in underserved areas and treat indigent populations.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, only 20 percent of the nearly 23 million Americans with reported illicit drug or alcohol use problems received treatment in 2013.
The Health Resources & Services Administration projected that by 2025, the national need for substance abuse counselors will exceed the projected supply by 13 percent, resulting in an almost 17,000 full-time equivalent deficit.
The number of youth on wait lists for residential substance abuse treatment grew by 15 times in one year—from 395 youth in 2014 to 6,223 youth in 2015.
The House Select Committee on Mental Health, chaired by Rep. Price during the interim, recommended expanding the substance use workforce. The Loan Repayment Program for Mental Health Professionals was created by the 84th Legislature.