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Need for mental health care workers gets some attention from the state

As many more New Yorkers seek treatment, a hiring shortage has made it hard for organizations like Community Missions of Niagara Frontier to recruit new staff.

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. — The need for mental health treatment grew last year according to recent survey data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It found that nearly 20 percent of U.S. adults sought help last year, an increase compared to before the pandemic.

But as many seek treatment a hiring shortage has made it hard for many organizations to recruit people willing to help. This includes Community Missions of Niagara Frontier which offers 24/7 supervised living for individuals struggling with their mental health and/or lack the home skills needed to live independently.

"Certainly hiring has been a difficulty through the pandemic no matter what the business is, the added difficult for us is taking care of individuals 24 hours a day," said Vice President of Public Relations and Development Christian Hoffman.

The Hanson House is just one of Community Mission's four residential programs. Ten people share a common kitchen and living space, with their own bedroom and staff available to help with medication management, counseling, and a lot more. Hoffman said as a whole, they've been operating about 40 staff short lately.

The shortage, however, hasn't just impacted Community Missions. Pleas for help have been made by mental health service providers across New York.

"There are more programs out there right now, but if there's nobody on the other end of the line, then that severely limits the efforts that any of these organizations are doing,” Hoffman said.

Governor Kathy Hochul announced some assistance to strengthen the state's mental health workforce. $21 million dollars was approved for distribution to organizations that apply. The money is available through the state's office of mental health and will likely benefit behavioral health programs like "Best Self" as well.

As for Community Missions, Hoffman said it's unclear how much money they could receive but retaining and attracting staff will be their goal.

"Certainly, we're looking for someone with a bachelor's degree in mental health but someone with a high school diploma that is looking to give back and wants to do more... we absolutely have a spot for that individual as well."

Someone with the heart for the often hard work in mental health.


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