Across Missouri mental health facilities, staffing shortages limit access to patient care • Missouri Independent

State officials told the Mental Health Committee Thursday that the staffing crisis across state-run mental health facilities has led to reduced access to care for patients, with some months waiting for services.

Within the Department of Mental Health Behavioral Health, about 35% of registered nurse positions are vacant, 57% of licensed practical nurse positions are vacant, 32% of entry-level psychological technology positions are vacant and 28% of entry-level security assistant positions are vacant. As well.

Nora Book, director of the department’s behavioral health department, said the department has slowed admissions processes to adult psychiatric hospitals, and 41 beds across facilities have been canceled “due to our inability to provide safe staffing to those locations.”

Asked by Commissioner Lynne Unnerstall how to care for patients without the necessary staff, Bock said, “In many respects, they are not.”

The staff shortage means less capacity available and fewer patients receiving treatment, Bock said.

Bock said state-run facilities for adults can serve individuals who have been obligated by the courts, and without sufficient capacity, some have to stay in prisons instead, “which is a question of whether they receive any kind of appropriate services.” .

“Within our facilities as well, if you’re just trying to make it day in and day out, treatment is happening because people are just trying to cover the bottom line and make sure that people are getting their medication and getting nourished,” Bock said. “So it’s a negative outcome in all respects, and it’s a fact that happens in inpatient settings as well as in our community settings.”

Ministry officials said low commission wages were a factor that contributed to the staff shortage. The department already has Spend hundreds of thousands of dollars With temporary staffing agencies to try to fill the shortfall.

“We have come to rely on high-cost agency hiring contracts to meet needs,” Bock said. “We are a little concerned that these contracts may become less available in the near future.”

“Within our facilities as well, if you’re just trying to make it day in and day out, the treatment is happening because people are just trying to cover the bottom line and make sure people get their medicine and feed them.

Nora Bok, Director of the Behavioral Health Division

last year, Department-managed facilities have also seen an increase in coronavirus cases, causing employees to have to stay at home and quarantine. But unions representing the facility’s workers said at the time that enforcement policies were patchy and, due to staff shortages, they were required to work after they tested positive for the virus if they did not show symptoms.

As of Monday, there were 2,281 cases among department employees, of which 24 were active, and 528 were among residents and patients, with one active case. In total, six employees and 13 patients have died from the virus, According to the section numbers.

The division worked with Learfield Communications, a marketing consultant in Plano, Texas with an office in Jefferson City, in a social media campaign in an effort to hire workers. The company was paid more than $405,000 by the Department of Mental Health for advertising services in fiscal year 2022, According to the Missouri Accountability Gateway,.

Sarah Murphy, the department’s director of human resources, told the committee that while the ads had high engagement on social media, only five candidates appeared at a recent job fair.

Murphy said potential job candidates have expressed disappointment with the department’s pay rate.

“It’s not making the effect we need,” Murphy said.

Jessica Bucks, director of developmental disabilities at DMH, said during Thursday’s meeting that October is the first month for “a very long time” as more new hires start versus those who leave.

According to a slide shared during the meeting, 35 direct support professionals started in October, as opposed to 32 who finished. In both August and September, there were more employees who ended their employment than new employees who started.

“I hope this is the start of some big transformation, but I think we all know that maybe not the truth,” Bucks said. “In addition, there is now a mandate for a vaccine issued.”

Thursday, The administration of President Joe Biden announced new federal rules on vaccinations, including a healthcare worker whose facilities participate in Medicare and Medicaid health insurance programs, and to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by January 4. Critics of the mandate have raised concerns that it will push already under-supplied health care workers out of the industry.

While the waiting list has declined since previous highs, there are currently 465 people waiting for residential services, Pax said. More than half of them wait between three months to more than a year to receive services.

“Having jobs and funding them doesn’t mean getting sponsorships,” Pax said.

Angeline Stanislaus, the department’s medical director, said Thursday that a case of Legionnaires’ disease was confirmed at a facility in Farmington Wednesday afternoon.

Department spokeswoman Debra Walker confirmed after the committee meeting Thursday that the Mental Health Center in Southeast Missouri was informed Wednesday that Legionnaires’ disease had been found in a patient who had been hospitalized.

The patient is still in the hospital, and Department of Health and Senior Services personnel are at the Southeast Missouri Mental Health Center “running extensive testing of the facility’s water,” Walker said.

Inhaling water droplets containing Legionella bacteria can cause Legionnaires’ disease, a severe form of pneumonia. In general, people do not spread disease to each other, According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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