Mental health industry facing staffing shortage, demand for service increases

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Like many areas of employment right now, the mental health industry is facing a staffing shortage. Experts say there’s been a surge in demand from the pandemic that’s only going to get worse.

“People think that because the pandemic is over the mental health issues are over, and what we know is they’re just beginning,” said Meghan Clifford, founder of Wellness Associates of Rochester.

She says the need for help lately is astronomical, and there just aren’t enough bodies to handle it.

“In the private practice I work in, Tree of Hope, there’s 41 of us, we are getting over 300 referrals a month and most of us are already full.”

She says a client could potentially be waiting up to 6 weeks for service.

For the first time in all her years of practice, she’s had to close off new clients.

The reason for this surge in demand? It has a lot to do with transition, Clifford says.

She says as we come out of the pandemic, new stressors arise. With that, fear of the unknown, similar to when the pandemic first began.

Add on collective stressors we face as a community.

“The continued trauma from that with gun violence,” she said.

It’s all ages, according to Dr. Linda Alpert-Gillis who works with kids at URMC.

She says after months of social distancing in class, not seeing peers every day and adjusting to constant change, younger ones are facing some of the worst of it.

“This is the first time we have really seen such a surge,” said Dr. Alpert-Gillis.

She has mentioned concern for staffing shortage as well. It could result in long wait times for some. Depending on triage and level of need, a family could wait weeks or months for some services.

Dr. Alpert-Gillis says while you may have to be patient – there are ways you can help out at home.

“Trying to get your kid into a routine this summer especially before the school year starts,” she said. “Try to be a positive coping role model for your kids, talk about the ways you cope with stress.”

And the silver lining in all this: she says more people are normalizing the act of reaching out for help, and see it as a sign of strength.

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