Workforce shortages in Human Services are keeping individuals from receiving needed care in a timely manner. That was the message of Family Counseling Center, Inc. CEO Sherrie L. Crabb during testimony before the Illinois Senate Human Services Committee.
“Nearly 400 people in our region are unable to access behavioral healthcare readily,” Crabb testified. “Some of those individuals have been on a waiting list six to twelve months with many accessing our 24/7 crisis response services instead.”
Crabb joined representatives of several other providers:
- Amanda Walsh, Director — Illinois Children’s Mental Health Partnership
- Blanca Campos, VP of Public Policy and Government Affairs — Community Behavioral Health Association of Illinois
- Sharon Post — Paterson Healthcare Writing & Research LLC
- Sherrie L. Crabb, CEO — Family Counseling Center, Inc.
- Marvin Lindsey, CEO — Community Behavioral Health Association of Illinois
- Stephen Brown, Director of Preventative Emergency Medicine — University of Illinois at Chicago Hospital & Health Sciences System
All have reported similar struggles in recent years as a result of the workforce shortage.
“This workforce shortage at Family Counseling Center, Inc. has taken an unprecedented turn since the historic Illinois budget impasse ended. Two years ago, I provided subject matter hearing testimony to this committee on solutions regarding the shortage of behavioral healthcare workers in Illinois,” said Crabb. “In that testimony, I warned about the then 41% turnover rate in behavioral health professionals just at my organization. The same year, Illinois Partners for Human Service warned of this same turnover rate across the state within all sectors of Human Service in a research report. Then, it took between six and twelve months to fill a vacancy and now over a dozen full-time, benefit earning positions go unfilled, some of which have been vacant over twelve months.”
“Unfortunately, these issues are not an anomaly to Family Counseling Center,” said Crabb. “The labor market conditions for community behavioral healthcare workers in Illinois is poor, at best. It’s no secret that 1.6 million people left the state between 2014 and 2018, according to a January 2020 report from NPR station WBEZ. The number of college educated people who left the state jumped by a third. This particularly hits the behavioral healthcare workforce hard due to the fact that most positions require a college education to provide prevention and treatment services. When asked their reasons for moving out of the state, the top answer was for job-related reasons. That leaves community behavioral healthcare employers in fierce competition with other employers such as hospital systems and even the State of Illinois, vying for the same candidates to fill all of their vacancies. Given that organizations like Family Counseling Center depend on rate reimbursements set by the state, that have failed to keep the pace with the cost of doing business not to mention the newly imposed minimum wage increase, it becomes merely impossible to recruit and retain talent as we are unable to contend with those competitor wages and benefits.”
The effects of the workforce shortage on providers and the communities they serve are especially pronounced in Southern Illinois.
“Rural Southern Illinois has faced many challenges over the years that have limited Human Service providers’ impact on the health and well-being of their communities. Unstable finances, logistical issues, declining access to an adequate workforce, among other challenges, have hindered community behavioral health organizations’ capacity to help families and communities achieve their full potential,” added Crabb. “Now is the time to act to ensure that not only the foundation we’ve built over time lasts but we are able to remediate challenges and forecast for our communities’ future needs.”
“I am hopeful that two years from now, I will be able to testify about improved recruitment and retention rates of skilled behavioral healthcare professionals in rural Southern Illinois. You have the power to make decisions today that can either move the behavioral health workforce forward to a thriving tomorrow or leave us stuck in a stagnant yesterday.”