Mental health providers

Ratio of population to mental health providers.

The 2020 County Health Rankings used data from 2019 for this measure.

Reason for Ranking

Access to care requires not only financial coverage, but also access to providers. Thirty percent of the population lives in a county designated as a Mental Health Professional Shortage Area. As the mental health parity aspects of the Affordable Care Act create increased coverage for mental health services, many anticipate increased workforce shortages. 

Key Measure Methods

Mental Health Providers is a Ratio

Mental Health Providers is the ratio of the population to mental health providers. The ratio represents the number of individuals served by one mental health provider in a county, if the population were equally distributed across providers. For example, if a county has a population of 50,000 and has 20 mental health providers, their ratio would be: 2,500:1. The value on the right side of the ratio is always 1 or 0; 1 indicates that there is at least one Mental Health Provider in the county, and zero indicates there are no registered Mental Health Providers in the county.

Mental Health Providers has been Corrected

We discovered an error in our method for identifying Mental Health Providers in 2014-2016: we were including organizations as well as individual providers in each county. The correct estimates of the ratios for Mental Health Providers are now available on our website for 2015 and 2016 and in the downloadable data files. Unfortunately, the raw data file used to calculate Mental Health Providers for the 2014 Rankings is not available at this time, so corrections cannot be provided.

The Method for Calculating Mental Health Providers has Changed

In 2015, marriage and family therapists and mental health providers that treat alcohol and other drug abuse were added to this measure.

Some Data are Suppressed

A missing value is reported for counties with population greater than 1,000 and 0 mental health providers.

Measure Limitations

These data come from the National Provider Identification data file, which has some limitations. Providers who transmit electronic health records are required to obtain an identification number, but very small providers may not obtain a number. While providers have the option of deactivating their identification number, some mental health professionals included in this list may no longer be practicing or accepting new patients. This may result in an overestimate of active mental health professionals in some communities. It is also true that Mental Health Providers may be registered with an address in one county, while practicing in another county.

Left Side of the Ratio

The left side of the ratio is the total county population.

Right Side of the Ratio

The right side of the ratio is the number of mental health providers in a county. Mental health providers are defined as psychiatrists, psychologists, licensed clinical social workers, counselors, marriage and family therapists, and mental health providers that treat alcohol and other drug abuse, as well as advanced practice nurses specializing in mental health care.

Can This Measure Be Used to Track Progress

This measure can be used to track progress with some caveats. The methodology for this measure has changed. In order to better understand this estimate, confirming this data with additional sources of data at the local level is particularly valuable. Note: The correct estimates of the ratios for Mental Health Providers are now available on our website for 2015 and 2016 and in the downloadable data files. Unfortunately, the raw data file used to calculate Mental Health Providers for the 2014 Rankings is not available at this time, so corrections cannot be provided.

Data Source

Years of Data Used

2019

CMS, National Provider Identification

The NPI Registry enables you to search for a provider's National Plan and Provider Enumeration System (NPPES) information. All information produced by the NPI Registry is provided in accordance with the NPPES Data Dissemination Notice. Information in the NPI Registry is updated daily. You may run simple queries to retrieve this read-only data. For example, users may search for a provider by the NPI or legal business name.

Digging Deeper
Age Not applicable
Gender 1
Race Not applicable
Education Not applicable
Income Not applicable
Subcounty Area 1

It is difficult to stratify this measure by population demographics or locale.

See how this component fits into our model
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When it comes to developing and implementing solutions to problems that affect communities, evidence matters. The strategies below give some ideas of ways communities can harness evidence to make a difference locally. You can learn more about these and other strategies in What Works for Health, which summarizes and rates evidence for policies, programs, and systems changes.

Increase support for non-profit health care organizations and deliver comprehensive care to uninsured, underinsured, and vulnerable patients regardless of ability to pay; often called community health centers (CHCs)
Provide continuous, comprehensive, whole person primary care that uses a coordinated team of medical providers across the health care system
Provide health care services on school premises to attending elementary, middle, and high school students; services provided by teams of nurses, nurse practitioners, and physicians
Deliver consultative, diagnostic, and treatment services remotely for patients who live in areas with limited access to care or would benefit from frequent monitoring; also called telehealth
Engage professional or lay health workers to provide education, referral and follow-up, case management, home visiting, etc. for those at high risk for poor health outcomes; also called promotores de salud
Increase patients’ health-related knowledge via efforts to simplify health education materials, improve patient-provider communication, and increase overall literacy

The County Health Rankings provide a snapshot of a community’s health and a starting point for investigating and discussing ways to improve health. Select a state and a measure below to see what’s happening locally.