Wyoming’s Covid-19 Spiked Mental Health License Demand
According to Gregory Searls, the board’s executive director, 181 people applied to the Wyoming Mental Health Professions Licensing Board in 2019 to become licensed or certified mental health professionals in the state.
That number has increased to 416 applications so far this year.
Searles told the Joint Appropriations Committee on Thursday, “I believe a lot of it is the practice that grew immensely over the times of COVID that are allowing other people to practice in this state.
According to Searls, Wyoming still has a shortage of mental health professionals despite an increase in demand for licenses to practice in the state.
He said that every state we speak to has a shortage of professionals who can deliver these services because there are still not enough of them in existence.
The board is requesting an additional $40,000 in funding this session to process the influx of applications, an additional $121,750 to pay for background checks, and the National Practitioner Data Bank membership fee, a requirement for all medical boards.
The request is insignificant compared to another mental health spending that lawmakers will consider during the upcoming legislative session.
The Joint Revenue Committee asked for a draft bill in September that might offer long-term funding for Wyoming’s suicide prevention initiatives. The proposed legislation would establish a trust fund to cover the cost of the state’s 24-hour suicide hotline and other suicide services.
According to Rep. Steve Harshman, a Republican from Casper, the fund would require a $30 million initial investment to generate sufficient returns to cover the cost of the suicide prevention services.
Additionally, lawmakers will think about possible solutions to the state’s shortage of mental health professionals during the upcoming legislative session.
For instance, Senate File 10 would allow Wyoming to join a multistate compact for licensed professional counselors. It would eliminate the need for counselors to obtain licenses in each state that is a part of the compact to practice there.
The bill was brought up in the previous session but was killed because it missed a deadline.
Legislative sessions begin on January 10.