Luring out-of-state professionals is just the first step in solving Montana’s health worker shortage

KEELY LARSON Kaiser Health News

Jenna Eisenhart spent nearly six years as a licensed therapist in Colorado before deciding to move to a place with a greater need for her services. She researched rural states facing a shortage of behavioral health providers and accepted a job as a lead clinical primary therapist at Shodair Children’s Hospital in Helena, Montana, in January 2018.

But she couldn’t start her new job right away because state officials denied her application for a license to practice in Montana on the grounds that her master’s degree program required only 48 credits to complete instead of 60.

Eisenhart spent nearly $7,000 to earn 12 more credits to meet the requirement, something she acknowledged not every provider would be able, or want, to do.

“I’m coming here as a licensed therapist to provide services that Montana desperately needs and you’re saying, no, you’re educationally deficient, when that’s not actually true,” said Eisenhart, now the director of clinical services at Shodair. “It kind of made me feel unwanted.”

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