Evaluation of the Mental Health Workforce Accelerator

Therapist and client in discussion

Approximately one in five adults has been diagnosed with a mental illness, yet only 47% of them receive treatment services, and racial and ethnic minorities are less likely to receive care than white people. One key driver of the low receipt of needed mental health care is that the demand for mental health services exceeds the supply of mental health providers. 

Almost half of the entire U.S. population lives in area with a shortage of mental health professionals. Many factors make it difficult to recruit and retain a robust and diverse mental health workforce, including low reimbursement and compensation rates, the lack of a pipeline for underserved populations to enter the workforce, and shortages of funded internships and licensed and qualified supervisors.

The Mental Health Workforce Accelerator Initiative

To address the shortage of mental health professionals in the U.S., particularly in community-based settings, Kaiser Permanente and the National Council for Mental Wellbeing have partnered to implement the Mental Health Workforce Accelerator Initiative (Accelerator). Accelerator provides financial support for job placements, stipends, and supervision for pre- and post-master’s mental health associates who will work in community provider settings serving vulnerable populations. 

By promoting an increased number of clinical training slots available for master’s level mental health professional students, Accelerator aims to expand college and university capacity to enroll students in mental health degree programs and increase the likelihood that students will complete the requisite clinical practicums to receive their licenses. In addition, by prioritizing diverse students and clinical sites that care for vulnerable populations, Accelerator promotes a more diverse mental health workforce for individuals most in need of care.

AIR's Evaluation of Accelerator

Kaiser Permanente and the National Council have partnered with AIR to evaluate Accelerator. Guided by RE-AIM—an evaluation framework that examines reach, effectiveness, adoption, implementation, and maintenance—the AIR team will evaluate Accelerator’s ability to:

  • Increase the percentage of master’s degree graduates who become licensees in target states;
  • Increase the number of patients served by partially qualified pre- and post-master’s candidates;
  • Increase diversity (e.g., race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, language, geographic, and cultural) of fully licensed master’s level mental health professionals in target states; and
  • Improve Health Resources and Services Administration health professional shortage area scores in identified target communities.

The AIR team will use mixed methods, including context mapping, journey mapping, thematic analysis, and organizational network analysis, to characterize the local context within which the Accelerator is occurring, the networks of organizations involved in Accelerator, and how organizations and students typically move through the education, training, and job placement process. 

The team will also use primary and secondary data to understand factors that motivate or discourage participation in Accelerator; describe barriers and facilitators to positive outcomes; understand student experiences; and identify potential for sustainability.

An important element of the evaluation is integrated engagement of an advisory group that will guide the evaluation throughout its life cycle. The team will collaborate with the advisory group on the development of the evaluation approach through co-design sessions and receive ongoing guidance on the analysis strategy, co-interpretation of the findings, and dissemination approach.