OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) — An interim study aimed at addressing Oklahoma’s behavioral health workforce shortage was held at the capitol on Tuesday morning.

“We have a huge behavioral health workforce problem,” said Rep. Cynthia Roe, R-Lindsay. 

According to the Healthy Minds Policy Initiative, the state has “serious shortages” in nearly every type of behavioral health provider. 

Interim study looks into Oklahoma's behavioral health workforce.
Interim study looks into Oklahoma’s behavioral health workforce. Image KFOR.

“Anyone who has waited months to find a therapy appointment understands this. We have barriers to training pipelines,” Zack Stoycoff, the executive director of the nonprofit. 

A few examples of providers facing shortages are psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers. 

According to Healthy Minds, Oklahoma’s supply of psychologists meets only about a third of what the state needs, while the state’s social worker supply meets only two thirds of what is needed. 

The big question is why. 

“Cost can be a barrier. Time can be a barrier. Awareness can be a barrier. Stigma can be a barrier,” said Stoycoff. 

Rep. Roe adds that the state has also seen an increase in mental health issues after the COVID-19 pandemic. 

On Tuesday, lawmakers heard from numerous specialists about what can be done to work towards correcting these problems. 

“Having this information will help us look at that and see where our needs are and hopefully increase the funding where it needs to be increased,” said Rep. Roe.

To watch a recording of the entire presentation, click here