Mental health has taken a prominent place in advanced societies, and government and health officials recognize the widespread incidence of mental illness. Management of resources is a key element of an effective mental health treatment ecosystem. Mental health administrators provide effective management of mental health facilities. Strong and insightful management is essential to the delivery of high-quality treatment both on an inpatient and outpatient basis. Mental health treatment is an intensive process involving clinicians, psychologists, counselors and other mental health and support personnel.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness estimates that there are approximately 43 million adults in the US with mental illness. The percentage represents 18.5 percent of the adult population. One in twenty-five adults have severe mental illness; the NAMI defines severe illness as mental conditions that substantially interfere with or limit a major life activity. Mental illness accounts for billions in lost wages (about $200 billion per year). Mental health treatment is a major component in the fight against the current opioid epidemic

What are Mental Health Administrators?

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The functions of the Mental Health Administrator depend on the nature and policies of the organization, the patient population that it serves, and the public policies and laws the control the situation. Mental health environments work with individuals, groups and entire communities to provide treatment, education, and prevention. Mental health Administration involves detecting and treating mental illness as described in the items below.

  • Anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and phobias.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Mood disorders including depression, bipolar disorder
  • Psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia
  • Impulse control and addiction disorders like pyromania, compulsive gambling, and alcohol and drug addiction
  • Personality disorders like obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, and paranoid personality disorder

Typical Job Titles

In small, medium, and large organizations, the primary mental health administration typically uses the title of director. These titles include Executive Director, Program Director, Director of Mental Health, Director of Behavioral Health. When the emphasis is on clinical education or services, then the title might be Behavioral Health Clinical Director. In a large hospital setting the title might be Clinical Care Manager, and in a community health center location, the mental health administration role might have a title like Manager of Community Behavioral Health Services.

The duties of Mental Health Administrators include the below-described areas of concern.

  • Annual organizational goals and strategic planning
  • Managing the revenue and funding cycles
  • Overall responsibility for professional and support staff, funding levels, physical location and facilities, the treatment resources and programs, and continuous assessment of the quality of care
  • Overseeing the required training, education, continuing education, licensing and certification

Education Needed

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The bachelor’s degree is the entry-level qualification in mental health administration. Like most other health administration leadership positions, the mental health administrator jobs require a master’s degree. One must note that in public employment, applicants can sometimes substitute the formal education requirements by qualifying work experience that supports the candidate’s readiness for entry, mid-level, and leadership positions. In public employment, bachelor’s and master’s degrees enhance opportunities, and most mid-level and top positions have advanced degrees.

Bachelor’s Degree

For most mid-level and upper-level mental health administrators, the bachelor’s degree is the first step towards a career in mental health administration. Applicants for advanced mental health administration education often choose undergraduate degrees in social work, sociology, and psychology. All of which serves as a strong foundation for a master’s degree in health administration. Master’s applicants can qualify for a master’s program with a wide range of undergraduate majors and concentrations. The master’s degree in mental health administration can involve, finance, business, business management, information technology, biological sciences, computer education, and information technology.

Master’s Degree Programs

The master’s degree prepares students for mid-to-upper-level jobs and leadership positions in the mental healthcare industry. The core curriculum enables students to succeed in in a wide range of mental health care settings including leading employers like hospitals, physician offices, mental health facilities, nursing and long-term care facilities, and government agencies. The degree concentrations vary with the type of degree offered by colleges and universities. The below-listed degree categories are typical for mental health administration.

  • MS is the Master of Science degree; it as an emphasis on health education.
  • MPH is the Master of Public Health.
  • MPA is the Master of Public Administration; the MPA frequently has a health concentration.
  • MHA is the Master of Healthcare Administration.
  • MBA is the Master of Business Administration; This degree often has a mental health-related concentration.

The core curriculum of the broader area of health administration that includes mental health administration typically has the below-described study areas.

  • Healthcare administration and management information systems
  • Health economics, finance, marketing, and managerial accounting
  • Community, population, and global health
  • Healthcare law and ethics
  • Health policy analysis and strategic planning

Most colleges and universities require a master’s theses or some type of end of degree project. These writings or projects provide an opportunity for students to integrate knowledge base and skill and skills into a professional level project. For example, a student might focus on strategic planning in the mental health care industry, and the unique challenges for organizational structure focused on value accounting.

Possible Job Titles and Management Roles

Mental Health Administrators can have a range of titles that reflect both their duties and the structure of the employer’s organization. The mental health administrators often fill the top executive level positions in organizations with significant mental health processes like hospitals, medical centers, Veteran’s Administration healthcare campuses, and university and college health systems.

The responsibilities for detecting and treating mental illness and performing valuable evidence-based scientific research falls equally on the public and private sectors. The federal government dedicates substantial amounts of personnel and money resources to mental health and substance abuse as do the fifty states and territories. Private institutions and organizations provide vital services in treatment, detection, and research on mental health. The mental health sector has key connections with banking, finance, and insurance, and information technology. Mental health advocacy is an essential part of public awareness and securing adequate resources to meet community needs.

Mental health administrator jobs vary in scope, and the content depends on the type of mental health facility, and the types of populations served. Mental health advocacy is a consistent role for mental health leaders. Mental Health administrators promote society-wide attention on mental illness through mental health awareness, public understanding, and community action. Whether working with special populations like children, youth, adults, or seniors, administrators of mental health carry out the organization’s plans and policies.

Mental Health Administration job responsibilities include setting the organization’s short-term objectives and annual goals. The duties typically involve funding and procedures to make sure that available revenue meets or exceeds the organization’s budget. Top level mental health administration executives work with their organization’s Board of Directors, stakeholders, or other policymakers to develop and carry out plans and strategies.

  • Providing overall management to the areas of staffing, finance, planning, facilities, program management, and evaluation. The Administrator devises innovative development strategies, programs, and marketing programs
  • Manages full compliance with federal, state, and local regulations
  • Assisting in the development and implementation of outreach, education, prevention, and community education programs on mental health
  • Oversees the processes for professional certification, licenses, credentials, and continuing education of the mental health staff

One of the fundamental challenges of mental health administration is the wide range of professions and disciplines that mental health administrators must supervise and manage. These multidisciplinary staffs of mental health professionals, technicians, and clinicians include the below-listed personnel groups.

  • Clinical psychologists, psychiatrists, nurse psychotherapists, mental health counselors, mental health nursing, and marital and family therapists.
  • Clinical social workers Licensed professional counselors
  • Certified alcohol and drug abuse counselors

Certification or Continuing Education

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Mental Health Administrators work in many roles and settings. The roles include psychiatry, counseling, nursing, substance abuse counseling, and family counseling. The state authorized roles require certification, licensing, continuing education and re-certification. Mental health administration professionals must maintain the state or other public requirements for good standing. In the cases of professional associations, mental health administration professionals must meet and keep current with the accreditation association standards. Association standards typically include coursework, other forms of continuing education, and payments of dues and fees for professional oversight for ethics.

Continuing education is a fundamental part of mental health care delivery. Advances in research, new medicines, and technological innovations play a key role in modern healthcare. Personnel must be aware of the latest developments and the impact on patient outcomes, their job performances, and career development. Mental Health Administration involves the use of resources that can enhance personnel skills and abilities and thereby improve the organization’s response to mental health issues.

Salary and Career Outlook

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The Bureau of Labor statistics provides survey and salaries in the mental health administration field. These surveys include a number of typical job titles with the essential management functions of a mental health administration in psychiatric, substance abuse facilities. The BLS reported the overall 2017 median salary was $98,350. The top ten percent of the range averaged $176,130. The wide range of salary reflects the types and sizes of the organizations; major hospitals and some private facilities tended towards the upper end of the range.

The Outlook

The job outlook for mental health care administration is strong, expansive, and upward in salary and benefits. The drivers are the expansion of health care, the policy of treating mental illness, drug and alcohol addiction, as well as other diseases. The below-described recent job postings provide current examples of the duties, opportunities, and salaries for mental health administrators. Note that these posting are just a sample of jobs out there for people in this field and do not guarantee employment or job availability.

1 Health System Administrator (Health Services Administrator), US Department of Justice, Washington, DC. The federal Bureau of Prisons. $80,713 per year.

2 Behavioral Health Director/Mental Health Administrator, Union county health department, Elizabeth, NJ. The incumbent supervises the Behavioral Health Unit that includes the Municipal Alliance program, alcohol grants as well as overall planning and administration of Union County's Mental Health System of Care. Bachelor's degree from an accredited college/university in Psychology, Public Administration, Social Work, Public Health, Hospital Administration or Nursing. The County prefers candidates that have completed a master’s degree from an accredited college or university in any of the above disciplines.

3 Executive Social Worker (Associate Chief of Staff, BH) $103,106 per year. Executive Social Worker for the Chief of Staff service, the incumbent is Chief of Behavioral Health Services (ACOS) at the Oklahoma City, VA Health Care System. The Veteran’s care location is a complexity level 1B facility. Behavioral Health (BH) is comprised of four specialty services; Psychiatry Service, Psychology Service, Clinical Social Work, and Recovery and Outreach Service.

4 Child Welfare Administrator / Administrator, CWA, State of Utah, $38.95 per hour, $81,000 per year. Master’s degree in or licensure in Clinical Social Worker, Clinical Mental Health Counselor, Marriage and Family Therapy or Psychology.

5 Senior Administrator, MSBI Behavioral Health. Leads and oversees the daily clinical, administrative and financial operations and the overall performance of the Behavioral Health services at MSBI. EDUCATION REQUIRED Bachelor’s and either professional licensure (LCSW) and master’s in healthcare (i.e., MBA, MHA, MPH).

6 Federal Supervisory Medical Records Administrator Job in NEW ORLEANS, LA $73,375–95,388 a year. The Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System provides patient-centered health care to Veterans throughout 23 parishes in Southeast Louisiana. The center meets the VA missions: health care to veterans, education, research, national preparedness, and support for the emerging bio-sciences industry in New Orleans.

7 Mental Health Program Manager - $91,485.36 - $111,201.12. Health Services Department's Detention Mental Health and Behavioral Health. Requires master's degree from an accredited college or university with a major in psychology, social work, counseling or a closely related field.