Denver, CO

Report: Colorado must bolster behavioral health workforce

Margaret Jackson

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By Margaret Jackson / NewsBreak Denver

(Denver, Colo.) Colorado should focus on bolstering the behavioral health workforce while enhancing opportunities for employers to implement talent-development strategies and increase marketing and outreach to companies, according to a recent report from the Colorado Workforce Development Council.

With the pandemic, economic downturn, natural disasters and social unrest exacerbating Colorado’s behavioral health crisis, the state should invest in training people to help with the shortage of behavioral health workers, according to the development council’s 2021 Colorado Talent Pipeline Report, which analyzes issues related to the supply and demand for talent in the state.

Behavioral health problems include substance use disorders, severe psychological distress and suicidal ideation.

“Crisis calls surged within the state in 2021, with the Mental Health Center of Denver reporting this year’s numbers to be 30% higher relative to 2020,” the report states. “In April 2021, 29.3% of Coloradans who reported having higher levels of anxiety, depression or both also reported having unmet needs for counseling or therapy.”

Rapid recovery

Since April 2020, labor force demand has recovered rapidly, with the total number of job openings surpassing unemployment in May 2021, according to the council’s report.

Even before the pandemic, employers struggled to find the skilled talent they needed Workers had trouble finding affordable and accessible opportunities to help them enhance their skills or retrain for new careers.

“The pandemic has only exacerbated these workforce challenges, which is why the report’s recommendations emphasize the importance of expanding pathways to quality jobs in in-demand industries,” said Lee Wheeler-Berliner, managing director of the council. “If we are to build back stronger, we need to be intentional about strengthening our talent pipeline.”

The pandemic also caused a shift in employers’ willingness to support their staff in working from home. The number of remote postings was up 124% in September, compared to the same time a year ago. A February study from McKinsey found that the percentage of remote workers was expected to double this year, with more than two-thirds of employers planning for remote work to be a permanent part of their staffing plans.

In fact, 83% of employers describe the shift to remote work as successful for their companies; 55% of employees say they would prefer to be remote at least three days a week after pandemic-related concerns subside; and 68% of executives say a typical employee should be in the office at least three days a week to maintain a distinct company culture.

“This could prompt a large change in the geography of work as individuals and companies shift out of large cities into suburbs and small cities,” the report states.

“Alongside this growing trend, towns and cities across the country are scrambling to accommodate new cohorts of remote workers, teleworkers and those in the workforce who have adopted a hybrid model.”

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