Alex Cohen is the Director of Learning and Evaluation for the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation.


The opioid epidemic, and related behavioral and mental health issues, is wreaking havoc in the lives of Hoosiers across the state and in Marion County in particular. To help address the crisis, the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation is making strategic grants to expand access to treatment for those struggling with addiction.

It’s important to our Foundation and the people these grants are designed to help that we target our grants to areas of greatest need, which we do by tracking several key metrics related to access to treatment. One metric we monitor is the behavioral and mental health workforce in Indianapolis. By tracking this metric, we can identify if there are skills gaps and determine whether and how we should target our grantmaking toward closing this gap.

Indianapolis lags behind its peers in mental and behavioral health professionals, according to recently released data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In May 2016, there were 2,640 mental and behavioral health professionals in the Indianapolis metropolitan statistical area (MSA). This is 2.6 per 1,000 jobs, which puts Indianapolis 36th among the top 50 largest MSAs.

Within mental and behavioral health professions, the biggest gaps are for psychologists, where Indianapolis ranks 45th out of the top 50 most populous MSAs, and substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors, where Indianapolis ranks 44th. This last category is particularly important, since it includes individuals who “counsel and advise individuals with alcohol, tobacco, drug, or other problems.”

These numbers underscore the need to expand access to treatment by developing more opportunities to grow the behavioral and mental health talent pipeline, among other approaches. We will continue to track these and other metrics so that we are targeting our grant funding toward initiatives that will have a maximum impact on the opioid epidemic devastating the lives of Hoosiers.

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