The U.S. Senate Committee on Finance held a hearing today about residential treatment facilities for youth experiencing behavioral health challenges. The hearing came after the committee issued a report about these facilities and instances of abuse that occurred at some of them.

The hearing detailed tragic incidents of young patients experiencing abuse. In discussing these events, both the hearing and the report highlighted insufficient staffing at facilities.

The committee provided yet another reminder that health systems across the country face staffing challenges. According to federal data, U.S. demand for behavioral health workers outpaces supply by around 118,000 professionals. That discrepancy is projected to worsen steadily over the next decade.

In addition to the need for more healthcare workers, the hearing identified other areas for improvement in residential treatment facilities. The National Association for Behavioral Healthcare said it looks forward to contributing to policymaking that would improve quality of care.

“NABH is eager to work with federal leaders to develop policies that advance access to quality care in the appropriate settings for U.S. youth who struggle with mental health and substance use disorders,” said NABH President and CEO Shawn Coughlin. “We also want to remind congressional leaders that if public discourse about youth RTFs is to benefit the common good, we need to ensure that policymakers, members of the media, worried parents, concerned teachers, and the general public share the same, clear understanding of the role that regulated, licensed RTFs play in the behavioral healthcare continuum.”

Like other healthcare facilities, residential treatment facilities are vital for treating patients and improving health outcomes. Further advancements are possible with a strong workforce and policies designed to improve treatment quality and access.