Missouri suffers from a severe shortage of substance use disorder treatment workers. Department of Mental Health director Mark Stringer tells Missourinet the state’s severe shortage is not unique.
“Among the direct care staff, we have high turnover rates. When you talk about professional staff, we have a severe shortage in Missouri and the rest of the country,” says Stringer. “We have a shortage of addiction specialists, a shortage of licensed mental health professionals, certainly a shortage of physicians.”
Stringer says pay is a major factor.
“This field of treatment of substance use disorders has been underfunded forever,” says Stringer. “A consequence of that is that licensed health professionals might be drawn to other settings because of that. There aren’t enough mental health professionals period. There aren’t enough addiction professionals period. So there’s a lot of competition for those individuals.”
The average pay for Missouri’s substance addiction specialists include:
Community Support Specialist: $32,678
Registered Substance Abuse Counselor: $27,756
Qualified Substance Abuse Professional: $34,429
Qualified Mental Health Professional: $41,092
Licensed Clinical Social Worker: $45,435
Licensed Professional Counselor: $45,254
The number of Missourians sitting on a waiting list to get into a substance use disorder treatment facility could be as many as 2,500 each day. Stringer says those seeking treatment could wait for several days or months.
He says the high priority access cases include pregnant substance-using women, intravenous drug users and those who commit serious crimes.
Missouri has 213 public treatment facilities among 110 cities and 83 counties.