Greene Mental Health faces staffing shortages | Greene County


CATSKILL – The Greene County Mental Health Center in Cairo is unable to rebook patients as the department faces staff shortages.

Greene County Mental Health Center Director Jason Fredenberg provided an update on staffing issues facing the agency at a meeting of the Greene County Legislature Health Services Committee the week last.

Fredenberg told the board that the mental health department is unable to schedule appointments with every patient seeking care in the county.

“Right now the demand for our services is really, really high,” Fredenberg said at the July 6 meeting. “We are very much struggling with staff shortages. It hits us very hard. I know it affects businesses everywhere. The mental health community across the state is grappling with this as well. We have a number of vacancies and very few applicants. So we’re at a point where we’re really struggling to keep up with the demand that’s coming in. »

The Mental Health Department had consulted with the state Office of Mental Health (OMH) and decided to temporarily suspend intake of non-acute clients to refer them to the county clinic, Fredenberg said.

“We are still held and can see everyone coming out of the hospital,” he told the Legislative Assembly. “According to the regulations, anyone leaving a psychiatric unit must be seen within five working days. We will continue to see these people.

New patients who call the Greene Mental Health Center will receive a list of alternative providers or be offered a place on the agency’s waiting list.

“The general person who calls our office and wants to engage our services that aren’t acute, we need to refer them to community providers right now,” Fredenberg said. “We just can’t keep up with the demand. We want this to be a temporary situation.

The department’s children’s services staff have more than 30 new admissions scheduled for children, with appointments booked through October, Fredenberg added.

There are also 61 adult patients on a waiting list for admission to the county’s mental health facility.

“We’re maxed out right now,” Fredenberg told the board. “We are trying to do what we can to stem the tide. We must take all acute clients and refer non-acute clients. We hope that by September we will be in better shape to operate as we always have.

Greene County Legislator Michael Bulich, R-Catskill, asked Fredenberg at the July 6 meeting whether or not the agency is reviewing the cases of patients on the waitlists to determine if there are any urgent danger signs among patients.

“We screen all calls, we don’t just randomly schedule someone for the next available outlet,” Fredenberg said. “We screen for all major risk factors for suicide or danger to others.”

Greene’s health department isn’t alone in dealing with staffing issues, said Legislature Speaker Pat Linger, R-New Baltimore.

“It’s just the next department,” Linger said after the meeting. “It’s not new. My wife works for the Office of Mental Health and even the CDPC (Capital District Psychiatric Center), they operate with about 50% agency staff, where they hire temps. The trained people just aren’t there. It’s a huge shortage. »

Relief could be on the way as the department is in the process of hiring two candidates who recently graduated from college, Fredenberg said, adding that he hopes the pair of new hires could be on staff by September. The department will also have two interns on staff this fall.

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