Oregon wants extra social employees, however the license utility course of has created a problem for some professionals

File photo from Dec. 16, 2021. Legislative efforts to increase mental healthcare workers in the state allowed for test fees to be waived for applicants seeking a social worker license. But with increase demand and staffing issues, a backlog formed and applicants have now had to wait months to get a license approved.

File picture from Dec. 16, 2021. Legislative efforts to extend psychological healthcare employees within the state allowed for take a look at charges to be waived for candidates looking for a social employee license. However with enhance demand and staffing points, a backlog fashioned and candidates have now needed to wait months to get a license permitted.

Bob Payne / OPB

Oregon is dealing with a scarcity of psychological healthcare professionals. A latest report from Psychological Well being America discovered 27% of grownup Oregonians live with a psychological sickness. On the identical time, Oregon has the fourth-highest price of unmet psychological well being remedy wants within the nation.

Initially of the yr, legislative efforts allowed the Oregon Board of Licensed Social Staff to quickly waive take a look at examination charges for these looking for any social employee license. Funds allotted additionally allowed charges for brand new purposes and a few license renewals to be waived as effectively.

The Oregon Well being Authority has mentioned these waivers had been meant to deal with the rising demand for social employees, in addition to to counterbalance the quantity of people that left the trade through the pandemic.

Nonetheless, some individuals looking for a license are nonetheless confronted with lengthy wait occasions. Nathan Smith is a licensed scientific social employee who moved to Oregon from Indiana and waited 5 months for his utility to be processed and permitted.

“I by no means received an utility quantity. I by no means was notified about the place my utility was within the course of,” he mentioned. “For these of us which might be already licensed and have been training for a number of years, it simply appeared like that may streamline the method.”

He started the applying course of in Might 2023, and when he moved to Oregon the following month in June, he discovered his utility was nonetheless not permitted.

Since Smith has a license to apply in Tennessee and Indiana, he was stunned with how lengthy it took and fearful the wait occasions may deter others from breaking into the trade.

“After I received it, it was type of anticlimactic,” Smith mentioned. “There’s so many different people who simply attempt and quit.”

In line with Interim Director of the Oregon Board of Licensed Social Staff Lou Savage, due to price waivers and telehealth, the board noticed thrice extra purposes coming from outdoors of Oregon than in 2022.

“Final yr at the moment, there have been 292 out-of-state license purposes. This yr, 2023, there are 886,” Savage mentioned.

The board can also be a small company with solely 5 staff and solely three of them are immediately concerned with processing. Savage says that in August of final yr, the board misplaced a kind of three individuals and that place was vacant for 5 months.

“The mixture of the rise in out-of-state licensure and the lower in workers actually overwhelmed the system,” Savage mentioned.

The board has begun some triaging efforts for Scientific Social Employee Affiliate purposes, as many new graduates are searching for work and the healthcare system wants a majority of these licenses.

He says they’ve managed to drop the backlog from 219 purposes in August to 111 as of this month. The board has additionally lowered wait occasions with the addition of recent workers and upgrades to the system to make the method faster.

“We’re actually assured that by the top of the yr, we might be considerably caught up with the backlog,” Savage mentioned.

Nathan Smith and Lou Savage each joined OPB’s “Assume Out Loud.” You may hearken to the total interview right here:

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