Addressing the Disparities in Clinical Exam Rates for Behavioral Health

As the need for behavioral health and social services skyrockets in California, it is more important than ever to support the current and future professionals who provide these imperative services. Despite having over 80,000 licensed behavioral health experts in 2016, California managed to meet only 30% of its overall need for a professionally skilled workforce in this field.

Unfortunately, like other health professions in the United States, the behavioral health workforce faces a disconcerting lack of racial and ethnic diversity. As per the 2018 Behavioral Health Workforce report by UCSF, African Americans, and Latinx/o/as are significantly underrepresented among psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, and social workers compared to California’s population. This issue is compounded by limited educational, training, and financial opportunities, which further restrict the pipeline of skilled professionals, including social workers who comprise approximately 17% of the behavioral health workforce.

To create equitable pathways into these professions, we must understand the barriers highly qualified and experienced individuals face when seeking licensure. The CA Alliance has put together a report that identifies several barriers and recommendations collected from multiple member-wide focus groups conducted in February 2023.