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Pavliga Pushes Innovative Solution to Improve Workforce, Mental Health Crisis

May 24, 2023
Gail K. Pavliga News

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State Rep. Gail Pavliga (R-Portage County) is taking a groundbreaking step toward addressing the mental health crisis in Ohio. The representative has introduced legislation that offers an innovative solution to the shortage of mental health professionals in the state. Pavliga spoke to the bill during its first committee hearing this week.

“Simply put, there are not enough mental health professionals in Ohio to adequately handle our behavioral health needs, and without substantive changes, our issues will only get worse,” Pavliga said.

As Chair of the House Behavioral Health Committee, Pavliga points out that according to the U.S. Department of Labor and Statistics, Ohio currently has a ratio of approximately one practicing adult psychiatrist for every 10,000 individuals. This indicates an urgent need to address the scarcity of mental health professionals in the state based on these numbers.

The legislation creates a new license for certified mental health assistants (CMHAs) and is an initiative developed by the Northeast Ohio Medical School in Pavliga’s district. The new training pathway is for physician extenders with an exclusive focus on mental health and substance use disorders, similar to physician assistants. 

Additionally, the bill grants CMHAs the authority to prescribe medication to patients in need under the direct supervision of a medical physician. This expanded scope of practice will allow CMHAs to play a pivotal role in delivering timely and effective mental health care to Ohioans.

The bill also proposes a six-year pathway to practice for aspiring CMHAs. The process involves obtaining a bachelor's degree at the institution of the student's choice, followed by a two-year master's degree program to become a CMHA. This comprehensive training will equip CMHAs with the necessary skills and expertise to address the diverse behavioral health needs of the population.

If passed, Ohio will become the first state in the country to introduce such a solution to tackle the mental health crisis. 

“By establishing a new class of professionals focused solely on mental health and substance use disorders, Ohio will significantly enhance its capacity to meet the growing demands for behavioral health services,” Pavliga added.

Watch Pavliga’s full testimony on the legislation here.