From APHA’s Annual Meeting: Thinking about Non-Traditional Providers of Mental Health Care
November 12, 2019

Last week, the American Public Health Association (APHA) hosted its 2019 Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and I had the wonderful privilege of attending as both a presenter and an attendee. Of the many interesting sessions, one in particular stood out as important for me to share with you all, titled, “Workforce Development: Mental Health Service Delivery by Non-Mental Health Professionals”. This workshop featured four presentations that highlighted the potential of thinking “outside the box” when it comes to the development of the mental health provider workforce. Each of the four presentations, briefly summarized below, highlighted strategic ways to bolster mental health providers and professionals:

  • Physician Assistants as a crucial mental health service provider: presented by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA), this talk underscored the value of including PAs in all mental health service delivery capacity-building efforts, as their most recent survey of this workforce indicated that approximately 62% of all PAs are evaluating patients with psychiatric symptoms at least weekly. Check out NCCPA’s website to learn more about how they are promoting the role of PAs across disciplines in the management of mental health, mental illness, and substance use disorders.
  • Community health workers (CHWs) as linkages to mental health care for Latino populations: presented by Kiera Coulter (University of Arizona), this talk discussed the findings of Coulter’s study, which explored the association between how a community health worker rates their clients health (or CHW-rated health) and the client’s depression symptomology. They found that community health worker-rated mental health was significantly associated with depressive symptoms, and often, CHW-rated health was more predictive than client’s self-rated health. The author described the immense potential for culturally competent CHWs to serve as linkages to mental health care for Latino populations given their strong rapport.
  • Mental Health First Aid Training as a tool to reduce stigma: presented by Jessica Garcia (University of South Florida), this talk pointed to the effectiveness of the Mental Health First Aid Training as a tool to improve trainees understanding of mental health, and thus reduce personal stigmas.
  • Collaboration between psychiatric and Primary care residents: presented by Nkema Esiobu (Yale School of Medicine), this talk highlighted an important mechanism for breaking down silos between primary and psychiatric care—beginning when providers are still being educated as residents. Esiobu discussed a case study in which increased collaboration between psychiatric and primary care residents during their practice-based education could improve primary care provider competency in managing mental health concerns.

To learn more about each of the presentations, view the abstracts submitted by each of the authors. Let us know your thoughts on these approaches to developing the mental and behavioral health workforce by tweeting us at @AMCHP_GrowingUp!

Our next regularly scheduled post falls on the Thanksgiving holiday, so we’ll be back early the week of December 2nd with a post-Turkey Day update. Wishing everyone a safe and happy holiday!