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Expanding the Mental Health Workforce

Develop educational, licensure, and certification programs for medical paraprofessionals in behavioral health

Overview of Problem
Improving mental health care will require improved access to quality care—care that must be delivered by a competent workforce at all levels. According to Parity or Disparity: The State of Mental Health in America (2017- Mental Health America), WA ranks in the bottom half of all states for access to effective mental healthcare.

We want to open new doors for people who need help in getting effective mental health care by increasing the number of pathways to access help.

The state’s community and technical colleges play a critical role in supplying the pipeline of allied health care workers such as nursing assistants, patient navigators, and medical assistants.  Developing and testing a model curriculum for supporting evidence-based treatments in primary care settings, hospitals, and specialty care clinics would expand the capacity of each of those venues to deliver mental health care.

​Next Steps
We are undergoing an environmental scan for development of two new mental health workforce roles:

  • Behavioral health assistant: medical assistant + behavioral health certificate

  • Behavioral health practitioner: BA level provider + measurement-based treat to target + evidence-based psychotherapies

Simultaneously, we are creating a plan to move forward with both new provider types including identifying educational resource needs, defining the scope of licensure and practice, and engaging with industry around these new roles.

Get Involved
Please contact Anna Ratzliff, MD, PhD ( for more information on how to help build the mental health workforce in Washington state.


Dan Ferguson, MS

Cori Anne Garcia-Hansen

Kate Di Nitto

Anna Ratzliff, MD, PhD


NOTE: Washington’s Behavioral Health Workforce Assessment (“Assessment”) is a rich source of information and recommendations. It is a collaborative effort of the state Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board and UW Medicine’s Center for Health Workforce Studies. Its recommendations are compatible with the ideas discussed in the foregoing, but cover a broader spectrum of workforce issues than that being addressed by the Washington State Mental Health Summit, the focus of which is to catalyze innovation around a select number of actionable solutions. The Assessment can be accessed at:

as of October, 2019

Allied Health Pathway

  • ​Continue to support colleges in developing and providing BH skills to allied health workforce students

  • Participate in the new BH Workforce Assessment Taskforce with current emphasis/focus on reciprocity and background checks

  • Support the development of baccalaureate degrees of applied sciences in behavioral health across the community college system

  • Support team based/interprofessional training of faculty in primary care, behavioral health and public health workforce education with emphasis to work collaboratively in addressing the opioid epidemic.

  • Work in partnership with the Greater Columbia Accountable Community of Health to develop incentive funding for organizations to increase clinical training slots for a wide variety of behavioral health professions students.

Bachelor's Degree Pathway

  • Formed partnership with the AIMS Center and the Allied Health Center of Excellence to explore options for bachelors level education.

  • Met with WA Senate Committee to discuss policy and academic pathways to improve the behavioral health workforce pipeline, behavioral health literacy, and policy.

  • Presented at the Northwest Regional Primary Care Association Conference and the WA State Applied Baccalaureate Conference

  • The Allied Health Center of Excellence provides ongoing consultation to Hospital Employee Education & Training (HEET) projects regarding industry engagement/empathy interviews about behavioral health training for allied health professionals and need for baccalaureate workforce training.

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