In this recent op-ed in the Albany Times Union, MHANYS Board Chair and Northern Rivers CEO Bill Gettman continues to lead the drum beat in reminding the State of their continued commitment to our mental health and human services workforce.With the recent CPI of 9.1% (and the impact of inflation to our workforce), advocates across the human services spectrum are gearing up to fight for an additional COLA in the 2023-24 budget (yes it’s not too early to talk about this).

OPINION <www.timesunion.com/opinion/>
Letter: Mental health staffing crisis must be addressed

To the editor

July 15, 2022

The recently enacted bipartisan crime bill represents major reform as it is the most significant new federal legislation to address gun violence since the mid-1990s. The measure allocates millions of dollars for mental health, school safety, and crisis intervention programs.

There is widespread recognition of the importance of mental health. Yet, a steady stream of professionals has left mental health positions and many jobs are going unfilled, leading to a staffing shortage that has reached emergency levels. The National Council for Behavioral Health reports 77 percent of counties across the country have severe shortages of behavioral health professions. A Harvard University study found just 17 percent of phone calls to get an appointment with a mental health counselor were successful. In the Capital Region, virtually all providers have significant wait lists or simply no longer accept new patients. We have a crisis.

We must quickly increase the training, recruitment and retention of skilled mental health professionals if we are to meet the existing and growing need. Practical and impactful ideas include:

– Offering bachelor’s and master’s levels scholarships with loan forgiveness;
– Boosting the pay beyond the current national averages, with annual increases;
– Providing continuing education and support for counselors to keep them engaged in their field;
– Revising payment models to make reimbursements easier and more common for providers; and
– Increasing access to video-based services (telepsychiatry).

With stagnant wages, frequent turnover and the growing pressure of student loan debt, mental health providers face a staffing crunch that leaves them without sufficient resources to meet the needs of the state’s most vulnerable populations. We need to act now.

William Gettman
Albany
CEO, Northern Rivers Family of Services
William T. Gettman, Jr.
Chief Executive Officer
Northern Rivers Family of Services
60 Academy Road | Albany, NY 12208

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