Recruiting the next generation of behavioral health workers to meet urgent need


OLYMPIA – The Washington Health Care Authority (HCA) recently launched a campaign that encourages young people and professionals from diverse backgrounds to pursue a career in behavioral health. The behavioral health field, which includes mental health and substance use disorder services, is experiencing the same severe staffing shortages that’s impacting the entire health care industry. Simultaneously, there is an unprecedented and growing need for behavioral health careers driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, and ongoing workforce challenges. In fact, the Washington State Department of Health projects that between two to three million Washingtonians will experience behavioral health symptoms due to the pandemic.

To date, the campaign has received over 73 million impressions, which is the number of times the ad content was displayed for audiences, and received 87,000 unique page visitors.

“As we continue to see an increase in behavioral health needs across the state, it’s pivotal that we recruit the next generation of diverse behavioral health workers to enact the change they would like to see in their community,” said Keri Waterland, director of the Division of Behavioral Health and Recovery. “The first step to filling the many available roles is to increase awareness of the opportunities this career field has to offer, which is the goal of this campaign.”

A new site launched by HCA – – allows individuals to explore the types of job opportunities available in behavioral health, including roles in prevention, promotion, and treatment and recovery support services, as well as educational options and financial resources.

This effort coincides with Washington state’s efforts to better integrate physical health, mental health, and substance use disorder treatment services into one system to improve outcomes for patients. As we break down barriers to accessing behavioral health services, it is also essential to ensure that access to services is equitable for all Washingtonians.

There are several benefits to behavioral health careers. There are opportunities for every educational level, with pathways to build upon your education over time with on-the-job training. Roles such as peer counselors offer those with lived experience the opportunity to make a difference, often without higher education. Additionally, certain individuals and career types may be eligible for loan repayment or other financial incentives to offset the cost of education.

Check out the campaign and behavioral health career resources at