A recent Huffington Post article confirms what we already know about the important role of social workers and the value they contribute as members of the health care workforce. In many respects, social workers are the “unsung heroes” of our health care system – bridging individuals and families to community resources that positively impact lives, families and communities.
A dire shortage of social workers and other mental health care professionals exists in Texas and across the U.S. Adding to this shortage is a mass exodus of baby boomer professionals who are beginning to retire. By 2030, one in five Americans (70 million people) will be over 65, more than double the number in 2000. We don’t have enough social workers and other mental health care workers today to meet current needs, and projections show this shortage will be even greater for future generations. A recent report published in March by the Hogg Foundation highlights key workforce shortage issues in Texas and offers short- and long-term solutions.
The foundation is investing in the development of social workers through the Ima Hogg Scholarship and the Bilingual Scholarships for Mental Health Workforce Diversity. We recognize that, given projected demographic changes and growth, Texas will need to have a robust mental health workforce that is well-trained and responsive to the unique, often complex needs of individuals, families and communities in our state.
If we do not invest now in developing the future workforce of social workers, the people of Texas and the nation will pay later – at the expense of the most vulnerable among us. That’s a price none of us should be willing to afford.