Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alaska is supporting a new video campaign with the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) to encourage people to pursue careers in behavioral health, which includes care for mental health conditions and substance use disorders. The videos feature UAA alumni sharing their stories about their behavioral health work and how it benefits the community.
"Premera's work aligns with UAA's goal to meet the workforce and community development needs facing our state," said University of Alaska Anchorage Provost Denise Runge. "We're thankful to Premera for helping us spread the word as UAA looks to be part of the solution to one of the many pressing workforce gaps facing our communities."
The Health Resources and Services Administration found nearly half of the U.S. population lives in a mental health provider shortage area. The impact of these provider shortages can be felt across the state. Studies found 36 percent of adults in Alaska experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression did not receive treatment, while 62 percent of Alaskans age 12–17 with depression did not receive any care in the last year. With nearly 25 percent of Alaskans also facing challenges from substance use, the behavioral health care system is strained.
With the continued need for care, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported employment of behavioral health counselors is projected to grow 18 percent from 2022 to 2032, faster than the average for all occupations. The UAA College of Health offers educational programs to prepare students to enter a variety of careers, including roles as a therapist, counselor, social worker, psychiatrist or psychologist. The programs can take three months to six years to complete.
"At Premera we know that we can't sit on the sidelines while Alaskans continue to face problems getting the behavioral health care they need," said Jim Grazko, President of Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alaska. "We're grateful to University of Alaska Anchorage for leading this critical work in helping people find a path to working in behavioral health."