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.
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 recently 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.
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.
Numerator (Left) Side of the Ratio
The numerator 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.
Denominator (Right) Side of Ratio
The denominator is the total county population.
This measure can be used to measure 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.