Mental health agencies in northeast Ohio say understaffing is hampering their ability to help people with behavioral and substance abuse issues

Behavioral health agencies in northeast Ohio are understaffed, resulting in long wait times between appointments for people seeking help for mental health and addiction issues.

Low salaries for many positions are one of the reasons it is difficult to find people to fill the positions, said Brittain Paul, chief operating officer of Ravenwood Health, a behavioral health services organization in the Geauga County.

“You go in and you get a master’s degree and then you go out and I think the pay for those types of positions is less,” she said.

Demand in Ohio for behavioral health services exceeded supply, increasing by more than 350% between 2013 and 2019, according to a 2021 report from the state Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services ( OhioMHAS). The number of health care providers only increased by 174% during the same period.

The lack of personnel creates a vicious circle. Employees working in behavioral health agencies have higher workloads. This can cause burnout and lead to a higher turnover rate.

“We probably have eight therapist positions currently advertised, and we’re lucky to have one person applying in two weeks,” Paul said.

MetroHealth announced that it will host a Friday hiring event for its new inpatient and outpatient behavioral health hospital slated to open this fall.

The event will take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at MetroHealth Cleveland Heights Medical Center on Severance Circle in Cleveland Heights.

“We are looking for qualified individuals who are committed to providing excellent behavioral health patient care,” according to a hospital press release.

United Way of Greater Cleveland will host a virtual community conversation on Thursday, May 19 from 6:00 p.m. to 7:15 p.m., focusing on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health and substance use, access to care, and the treatment. Registration is free.

A panel of experts will discuss the impact of COVID on mental health and substance use in communities, opportunities and barriers to service delivery, and policy strategies at local and state levels to respond to adequately to the ongoing behavioral health needs of communities.

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced a plan last week to spend $85 million in federal funding to expand the number of behavioral health care providers amid a shortfall from increased demand. .

Funding will be used to make education more accessible and affordable by improving paid internships and scholarship opportunities for students studying behavioral health at two- and four-year colleges and universities in Ohio and other career development contexts in education, according to a press release.

“The health and success of Ohio families and communities depends on our ability to recruit, train and retain top talent to ensure Ohio has the strongest behavioral health workforce possible” , DeWine said. “Behavioral health workers are a valuable and vital part of our healthcare system, and our efforts today are focused on helping to quickly infuse more skilled professionals into behavioral health workplaces across the world. ‘State. I look forward to working with the General Assembly, Ohio vendors, and our colleges and universities on this innovative plan.

More than 20% of Ohioans — nearly 2.4 million people — live with a mental health condition or substance use disorder, the statement said.

“The lack of trained and qualified professionals is the number one concern we hear from mental health and addictions providers in Ohio,” said OhioMHAS Director Lori Criss. “This issue is not unique to our state, but we have a unique opportunity to create pathways to recruit new talent into our growing field of health care.”