Behavioral Health Staffing: Experts Share Strategies for Success

The behavioral health industry is facing an unprecedented staffing crisis. Increased service demand, a shrinking talent pool, and intense salary competition have left many organizations struggling to find and retain qualified professionals. In a recent webinar by SimiTree, a panel of experts discussed these staffing challenges and shared practical strategies for success.

To view the full-length webinar, click here and select "Talent Solutions"


The Scope of the Problem

Panelists noted that there are several long-standing staffing issues impacting behavioral health, including:  

  • Increased acuity and decreased services: A more challenging workload with fewer resources, making retention challenging. 

"I think that in some ways, the behavioral health workforce has been challenging for a long time; I will say that it got immeasurably harder post-pandemic/mid-pandemic for a variety of reasons," said Margaret Scott, Chief Program Officer at Morrison Child & Family Services. 

She continued, "The acuity of our clients has increased, and the services have decreased. So even when we can hire people, it's a pretty difficult job, and we tend to have a lot of issues with retention."

  • Shrinking talent pool: Fewer new graduates enter the field, forcing behavioral health systems to hire from the same candidate pipeline. 

“A lot of people are entering the market, and we’re scrambling over limited resources,” said Stanley Frank, CEO of Minerva Park Behavioral Health Center. 

  • Intensified salary competition: Candidates are interested in higher salaries in behavioral health that offer them more financial stability over other factors. 

"There’s a different expectation around salaries,” explains Scott, “salaries that people legitimately feel they need to maintain a satisfying life.” 

  • Telehealth: The ability to work from home via telehealth is an increasingly important draw to candidates, causing behavioral health systems to struggle to fill roles for in-person services. 

Despite these challenges, the panelists offered several strategies for attracting and retaining top talent:

  • Offer flexibility: Remote work options, flexible scheduling, and ample training opportunities can appeal to younger generations and working parents.
  • Provide competitive compensation: While budgets may be tight, offering competitive salaries and benefits packages is essential for attracting quality candidates.
  • Invest in professional development: Providing opportunities for growth and advancement can help retain valued team members for a longer period of time. 
  • Highlight mission and culture: Emphasizing the meaningful nature of the work and the organization's values can attract candidates who align with your mission.

“The most successful placements that I’ve seen [working with clinics] involves just being flexible,” stated Polly Cooper, Behavioral Health Executive Recruiter, “you have to be flexible working with these clinicians because, in behavioral health, they have so many options.”


Creative Solutions for Hard-to-Fill Roles

For particularly challenging positions, the panelists recommended several innovative approaches:


  • Hire for potential: Look for candidates with the right aptitude and attitude, even if they lack specific experience. Invest in on-the-job training to develop their skills.
  • Utilize interim leaders: Bringing in experienced interim behavioral health executives can fill critical gaps while thoroughly searching for a permanent placement.
  • Leverage recruitment partners: Talent solutions like SimiTree, with extensive networks and industry expertise, can help expand your candidate pool and streamline the hiring process.

The Importance of Proactive Outreach

Panelists also stressed the value of proactive outreach and community engagement. "I want to get out in the community and start meeting my referral sources and talking to people," said Frank. "When I'm out there, I tell people what I’m looking for."

Attending job fairs, encouraging employee referrals, and maintaining a strong presence at industry events can also help attract potential candidates.

Adapting to a New Generation of Workers

To appeal to Millennial and Gen Z professionals, behavioral health organizations may need to adjust their recruitment strategies. Offering a solid work-life balance, growth opportunities, and embracing technology can attract younger candidates.


How SimiTree Can Help: A Comprehensive Approach

For BH organizations seeking expert assistance, SimiTree's Talent Solutions offers a comprehensive approach to recruitment. With a robust candidate database, interim leadership options, and a team of experienced recruiters, SimiTree is uniquely positioned to help behavioral health organizations find the right talent for their needs.

  • Extensive Network: Our extensive network of clinicians, specifically in home health, hospice, and behavioral health, sets us apart.
  • Robust Applicant Tracking: Our AI-powered Applicant Tracking System (ATS) works tirelessly to identify the best matches based on your unique requirements.
  • Strategic Social Media Recruitment: We leverage strategic social media recruitment through our dedicated Talent Solutions page and prominent job boards like Indeed.
  • White-Glove Approach: What truly sets SimiTree apart is our white-glove approach, providing personalized attention and dedicated support throughout the entire recruitment process.
  • Post-Placement Support: We'll walk your candidate through the door on their first day and remain in touch afterward, ensuring satisfaction on all sides.
  • Data-Driven Insights: Our expertise allows us to offer accurate and competitive compensation recommendations, ensuring successful placements and long-term retention.

While the staffing in behavioral health continues to present significant challenges, the strategies and insights shared by SimiTree's expert panel offer hope and practical guidance for organizations struggling to find and retain behavioral health talent. By embracing flexibility, investing in professional development, leveraging creative solutions, and partnering with experienced recruitment firms like SimiTree, organizations can overcome behavioral health staffing obstacles and continue their vital work in our communities.


If your organization is facing staffing challenges, don't hesitate to contact us. Visit our webinar page and select talent solutions to watch the full-length webinar on staffing in behavioral health.