Addressing your hospital’s behavioral health care workforce challenges may be a “daunting” duty for some. But a new guide, out today from the American Hospital Association, might help make the task a little less intimidating.

By 2030, if current trends continue, there will be just one geriatric psychiatrist for every 6,000 older Americans dealing with mental illness and addiction, according to the Institute of Medicine. Back in June, the AHA released a guide, “The State of the Behavioral Health Workforce: A Literature Review,” with tips for hospitals to respond to this shortfall, and Tuesday, coinciding with Mental Illness Awareness Week, the association followed up with a new report, with seven fleshed-out steps on how to get there. Included are key “implementation ideas” along each marker of the journey.

This will be a lengthy journey for most, so it’s wise to get the ball rolling soon.

Here is a quick look at the seven steps, along with some of the corresponding implementation ideas. You can find the full report here.

  1. Assess your current workforce’s knowledge and skills, as well as your patient population.
    1. Refer to the assessment tools developed by the AHA, including the “ACHI Community Health Assessment Toolkit” and “Developing an Effective Health Care Workforce Planning Model.”
    2. Choose organizations that are similar to yours in size and demographics.
    3. Draw from your existing data.
  2. Ensure that your workforce is knowledgeable about the socioeconomic determinants of health and the challenges your community faces.
    1. Assemble an interprofessional panel or advisory group.
    2. Include issues related to seniors as part of your discussion.
    3. Consider a community medicine rotation, through which, residents can learn about and experience the social-service resources available to them.
    4. Engage a patient advisory group from the community you serve.
  3. Educate your entire workforce to identify the signs and symptoms of behavioral health disorders and know where and how to refer patients for screening.
    1. Keep the training as generic as possible, with no patient data or sensitive info.
    2. Be sure to offer a platform where your workforce can ask questions.
    3. Consider using one of the array of assessments and screening tools, listed in the guide.
  4. Set up defined and connected procedures for assessment, treatment and referral so that behavioral health care is happening at the site of visit, when possible.
    1. Understand how behavioral health care is currently being delivered in your organization, and how care will be delivered in the community in the future.
    2. Carefully consider what will happen when the patient leaves your facility.
    3. Convene or participate in conferences that disseminate info on this method of care delivery.
  5. Use interprofessional education and training and team-based care for your current and future workforce to begin integrating primary and behavioral health care.
    1. Consider implementing TeamSTEPPS (Strategies and Tools to Enhance Performance and Patient Safety) or other training programs for interprofessional, team-based care across the organization.
    2. Based on your community health needs assessment and surveys of providers, benchmark how behavioral health care is being delivered.
    3. Strengthen the knowledge of local providers with evidence-based behavioral health practices.
  6. Contact higher education programs in your area to establish partnerships that address the needs of your service area, along with enhancing recruitment and retention of behavioral health professionals.
    1. Recognize that, for many millennials, a job with a “greater purpose” will lead them to health care.
    2. Take advantage of the knowledge university staffs have to offer, and learn from their past success with millennials.
    3. Examine your local higher education and training infrastructure.
    4. Increase recruitment of those with local backgrounds and community connections.
    5. Work with your HR department to enhance recruitment packages to appeal to younger professionals, or those who are pursuing behavioral health as a second career.
    6. Provide timely updates and training on new technology to foster a culture of innovation.
  7. Engage the broader community to strengthen care transitions and integration.
    1. Make your purpose clear and consider giving your outreach initiative a mission and name before the first contact.
    2. Don’t just abandon your meetings on collaborations. Make sure you come away with data you can use.