In a conference room on East Amherst Street, another day of training for a group of people getting ready to enter the fight against WNY's opiate epidemic.
They are new hires for Horizon Health Services. It takes about 90-days of training and preparation after they are hired to be ready to help someone break the hold of addiction.
Mary Daly is one of the trainees. She comes to Horizon with two degrees from Niagara University and an eagerness to make a difference.
“This is a passion. This is something that really fulfills me. For me that pay-off is being able to work with people and hopefully make a difference for them. That’s where I find the true benefit of this work,” says Daly.
The trouble is, there are not enough Mary Dalys.
Finding qualified staff to work in drug treatment is usually difficult, and without counselors and specialists, there is no drug treatment. Treatment providers like Horizon are almost always looking for help.
“It’s continuously going on. It’s an on-going effort to source and recruit the best talent. Right now we have about a dozen or so trainees right now in our pipeline," says Veronica Meldrum, Horizon vice president of employee services.
But in the last year, area treatment providers have had to pick up the pace of searching for and hiring new treatment staffers. Some of that is the ever increasing need for treatment slots because of the growing opiate epidemic.
Another factor is new state laws enacted last year to require insurance companies operating in New York to cover in-patient and medicine-assisted treatment.
Needing more of their own experts on drug treatment on their payroll, insurance companies have hired away staff from drug treatment providers. Many of the providers are non-profit and cannot match the pay and benefits insurance companies have to offer. 2 On-Your-Side has been told several times that insurers can offer $20,000 more to start.
While unhappy and somewhat frustrated, treatment providers have been reluctant to come forward to complain about employee poaching. Many of the providers depend on insurance companies for payment of the treatment provided to insurance company customers.