CLEVELAND — The ADAMHS Board of Cuyahoga County reported a local behavioral health workforce shortage, at a time when calls to the 24-hour mental health hotline are up by 30%.
Samatha Jones of Cleveland, who suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and anxiety, told News 5 the workforce shortage played a role in forcing her to change counselors five times over the past several months.
“It’s absolutely disheartening, at times I break out and cry," Jones said. “This has been going on for about a year, and each time I switch I lose the progress that I made with the previous person.”
“So I’m not feeling any progress, I’m feeling very isolated, I’m feeling very alone and frustrated.”
“There is a lack of infrastructure when it comes to mental health issues, there is a lack of awareness, there is a lack of desire to talk about it. There’s a lot of embarrassment and there’s a lot of secrecy.”
Scott Osiecki, CEO of the ADAMHS Board of Cuyahoga County, acknowledged the workforce shortage during the ongoing pandemic and said his agency, along with Frontline Services has put together a five-year action plan to address mental healthcare workers recruitment and retention issues.
“We're going to try and provide better pay for individuals who are in the mental health workforce, come up with paid internships, and also try to reach out to people younger, like high school age," Osiecki said.
“Because of the work shortage, what we’re finding is that a person will go from one agency to another agency, which leaves a gap there.”
“Then they find out that it is stressful, the pay is very low, they find out that they can move to different jobs in different fields that they can use their degree in.”
Osiecki said if someone feels they are being bounced around, or aren't getting the care they feel they deserve, they should contact their caseworker for assistance.
Jane Granzier, Associate Director of Crisis Services for Frontline Services, said those lost in the shuffle should stay diligent in searching for mental health resources.
“It’s definitely created stress on our system in the mental health community," Granzier said. "To be responsive in a timely way, access and timeliness are always important.”
“If you can't reach a supervisor, reach out to the client's rights officer. Every community mental health agency has a client's rights officer, someone who is totally dedicated to being objective.”
Osiecki said those looking for resources can contact their primary care physician to make referrals, or the ADAMHS Board, which has its own clients rights department at 216-241-3400.
He said the 24-Hour Suicide Prevention Mental Health and Addiction Crisis Hotline, through Frontline Services, is also available at 216-623-6888.
Meanwhile, Jones is encouraging others not to give up on finding the help that they need.
“And so there is hope for you," Jones said. I’ve been down that dark path, I’ve navigated it, and I’ve survived. And if I can do it, you can too.”