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Western New York Faces Demand for Mental Health Professionals

Horizon Health Services has 30 Job Openings
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Posted at 11:12 PM, Jul 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-12 23:12:15-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — According to the New York State Health Foundation, mental health concern rates among young adults have increased from 49% to 57% within six months.

“People who were on that baseline of having anxiety or depression, this really pushed them over that line,” Vice President of Operations at Horizon Health Services Brandy Vandermark- Murray said.

“Adding the pandemic in this, you’re really seeing the high demand of the need,” CEO of Crisis Services Jessica Pirro said.

CEO of Crisis Services, Jessica Pirro said COVID-19 has put a spotlight on the shortage of mental health professionals in Western New York. She said Crisis Services has 12 open positions. And right now, there are 30 job openings at Horizon Health Services.

“It’s like this perfect storm of increased access we need for patients and decreased workforce to have created this really difficult atmosphere we’re in right now,” Vandermark-Murray said.

Vandermark-Murray said their staff is committed to serving the community, but she is worried about burnout.

“We have many staff who have picked up overtime, picked up weekends, picked up evenings,” Vandermark-Murray said.

Some of the job openings pay just more than $15 an hour, on par with what fast food workers in buffalo make. Pirro said the nature of the work is difficult, and sometimes the wages are not enough to outweigh the cost of the job.

“They are exposed to very traumatic situations, very traumatic conversations and that’s a health risk for them,” Pirro said.

Pirro said advocating for better wages is a top priority and Vandermark-Murray said they are trying to alleviate some of the pressure and demand by offering sign-on bonuses for the first time for new hires.