Context: Ensuring an adequate mental health provider supply in rural and urban areas requires accessible methods of identifying provider types, practice locations, and practice productivity.
Purpose: To identify mental health shortage areas using existing licensing and survey data.
Methods: The 1998-1999 Washington State Department of Health files on credentialed health professionals linked with results of a licensure renewal survey, 1990 US Census data, and the results of the 1990-1992 National Comorbidity Survey were used to calculate supply and requirements for mental health services in 2 types of geographic units in Washington state-61 rural and urban core health service areas and 13 larger mental health regions. Both the number of 9 types of mental health professionals and their full-time equivalents (FTEs) per 100,000 population measured supply in the health service areas and mental health regions.
Findings: Notable shortages of mental health providers existed throughout the state, especially in rural areas. Urban areas had 3 times the psychiatrist FTEs per 100,000 and more than 1.5 times the nonpsychiatrist mental health provider FTEs per 100,000 as rural areas. More than 80% of rural health service areas had at least 10% fewer psychiatrist FTEs and nonpsychiatrist mental health provider FTEs than the state ratio (10.4 FTEs per 100,000 and 306.5 FTEs per 100,000, respectively). Ten of the 13 mental health regions were more than 10% below the state ratio of psychiatrist FTEs per 100,000.
Conclusions: States gathering a minimum database at licensure renewal can identify area-specific mental health care shortages for use in program planning.