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Sheps Center awarded two federal funding agreements for workforce research

The Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research and Policy has been awarded two Health Resources and Services Administration agreements to fund research centers.

The creation of the Behavioral Health Workforce Research Center will be funded by a five-year $4.5 million award and led by director Brianna Lombardi and deputy director Lisa de Saxe Zerden. The center will house the only federally funded workforce center specifically focused on the behavioral health workforce.

Behavioral health needs in the U.S. are at an all-time high due to the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic, the ongoing opioid crisis, and the chronic shortage of available mental health and substance use disorder services. Only half of those who need behavioral health treatment receive care. For members of underserved communities and vulnerable populations, access to behavioral health treatment is even more difficult.

The lack of a well-trained and positioned behavioral health workforce reflective of the community it serves is a persistent obstacle to accessing behavioral health services. The composition of the behavioral health workforce is complicated by variations of disciplines and settings, educational training, licensure, the scope of practice regulations, and reimbursement issues, making it difficult to estimate the needs, sufficiency, and distribution of the behavioral health workforce. The UNC Behavioral Health Workforce Research Center (UNC-BHWRC) will conduct rigorous, data-driven research that will inform policy and planning to strengthen the behavioral health workforce and increase access to quality services delivered by practitioners from diverse backgrounds. UNC-BHWRC will produce the evidence needed to inform funding programs and support training that improves access to, supply of, distribution, diversity, and quality of the behavioral health workforce.

In addition, the Sheps Center is excited to announce that the Program on Health Workforce Research and Policy received a five-year, $2.25 million award to support the Carolina Health Workforce Research Center (CHWRC). The CHWRC, established in 2013 and directed by Erin Fraher, focuses on a wide range of emerging health workforce topics. This year, the CHWRC will conduct research on: the changing number and composition of the nation’s health workforce in response to the pandemic and evolving care delivery and payment models; the organizational, professional and societal factors that contribute to provider wellness and career satisfaction; the interprofessional, team-based models of care needed to provide integrated primary, behavioral health, and social care to underserved populations; and the contributions of Historically Black Colleges and Universities to physician workforce diversity.