This month marks two years since COVID-19 began affecting our operations in Virginia. Over the last 24 months, we have curtailed family visits, implemented mask mandates, held vaccination clinics, and carefully followed state and federal guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus. While we took every step to keep our staff and clients healthy, one area beyond our control has been the labor shortage created by the pandemic.
According to a recent analysis, the healthcare labor market is expected to face shortages for the next five to 10 years as the U.S. continues to grapple with COVID-19. This is already leading to a lack of hospital beds and residential treatment capacity across the country. The shortage is especially problematic for special needs individuals experiencing mental health crises, who are often sedated, restrained, or confined to hospital beds for days at a time while awaiting appropriate psychiatric treatment from professionals that can meet their unique needs.
Other states and jurisdictions are rising to this challenge. In Maryland, our business management agreement with Maryland Salem Children’s Trust allowed them to seek funding via an Adolescent Hospital Overstay Grant Program—a funding initiative designed to expedite the transfer of youth out of hospital “boarding” situations. In Minnesota, officials are providing relief funds to provider organizations for recruitment and retention efforts, as well implementing psychiatric residential treatment (PRT) programs—one of which will be run by Grafton.
At Grafton in Virginia, we have responded to staffing challenges by offering bonuses, intensifying recruiting efforts, and right-sizing our census to better match staffing capacity. We have kept our doors open during these difficult times through a combination of careful financial management and federal funding for our services. Our advocacy with state legislators is ongoing, and we hope that they follow the lead of other states in actively addressing the challenge of behavioral health staffing shortages.
While Grafton is fortunate to remain financially healthy, children and adults around the country are desperate to access the services we provide. To better support these individuals, we need to increase state and federal funding for behavioral health services. This would allow Grafton and similar organizations to accept more clients while increasing salaries to attract and retain qualified staff.
Please know that we are fighting the good fight to create opportunities for our employees within this field. We will never stop advocating for our workforce, as well as for the people they are committed to serving. We believe that every crisis comes with an opportunity, and the opportunity before us is to rebuild this organization, post-COVID, in a way that enhances employees’ experience and provides them with the resources they deserve to fulfill their mission of supporting our clients.
|Jamie Stewart, Chief Executive Officer|