Mental health advocates across New York are celebrating a new resource for people living with mental illnesses. It’s called 988.
“We’ve seen all too often what happens in communities when the response to a mental health crisis is a 911 response,” said Sebrina Barrett, executive director of the Association for Community Living (ACL).
The number 988 will serve as a hotline for people experiencing a mental health crisis and help transform how the state responds to the emergencies.
But advocates say the new tool is highlighting another crisis.
“It’s not going to be helpful to have 988 if there is nobody there to answer the call,” said Barrett.
What You Need To Know
- The Association for Community Living (ACL) provides housing and rehabilitation services to more than 40,000 New Yorkers battling serious and persistent mental illness
- The ACL reports a 20% job vacancy statewide
- 988 will serve as a hotline for people experiencing a mental health crisis and will help transform how the state responds to such emergencies
The ACL is an organization of nonprofit agencies that provide housing and rehabilitation services to more than 40,000 New Yorkers battling serious and persistent mental illness like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
Barrett says right now, one in five jobs are vacant, and as a state-funded organization, filling that gap is tough.
“There is a limit to that funding,” she said. “Unlike corporations that can raise hourly wages in order to compete for employees, our members can’t do that.”
Delores Woodson works in the human resources office at Mohawk Opportunities, an ACL member based in Schenectady.
“Our talent pool has shifted in the fact that we’re not only getting less applicants, but the number of qualified candidates (has) shrunk,” she said.
Woodson says at the start of the pandemic, applicants were concerned about child care.
“Now, it's more so that the pay isn’t always what they’re looking for,” she said.
The lack of workers and turnover is also proving to be counterproductive in their work with clients.
“So, sometimes they have a hard time establishing trusting relationships to begin with,” said Kelley Nutter, human resources director at Mohawk Opportunities. “When they do establish that trusting relationship, it's really important for their recovery.”
Nutter has worked with Mohawk for more than 30 years and can’t recall a time quite like this.
“People once looked at nonprofits for their benefits, their time off and the experience and education,” she said. “Now, that is not a pull for applicants anymore.”
Their work continues, but Nutter, Woodson and Barrett are concerned staff could become too overwhelmed.
“We’ve got supervisors that are working overnight shifts at this point,” said Barrett.
She says if you’re interested in human services and are looking for a rewarding experience, a job like this could be the perfect fit.
“To come to work every day and see someone go from having to have 24/7 care to being able to live independently in their own apartment, to get a job or to get married, these are rewarding jobs.”