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Providers search for staff to meet needs of growing field

April 25, 2014

With Medicaid expansion, the Mental Health Parity Act, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the large population of people who are seeking treatment for mental health and addiction, treatment organizations are expanding and new programs are constantly opening. With this comes a need to hire additional staff.

According to Kevin Gallagher, chief financial officer (CFO) at Solid Landings Behavioral Health (Costa Mesa, Calif.), there is no question where the organizational growth is coming from. “It’s been driven by adding beds,” he says. “The rapid growth of 2013 that has extended into 2014 has created significant openings.”

Tanisha Porreca, chief operating officer (COO), explains that over the last year the organization hired more than 100 new employees and will mostly likely hire an additional 100 this year as well.

The organization posted advertisements on job websites such as Monster and Indeed, but since the need has been so high, it held a career fair in early April to attract potential employees. The administrators needed a wide range of positions filled, including case managers, therapists, accountants, drivers and support staff.

In addition to overall turnout numbers, Gallagher was impressed by the demographics at the fair. “We had a very healthy mix of newly licensed professionals and new college graduates, mixed with seasoned professionals,” he explains.

Nine tables were set up at the event for initial screening interviews, each with a different department representative.

Challenges to staffing

Filling support staff positions is an ongoing need for the organization, but the most difficult to fill has traditionally been for the graveyard shift.

As CFO, Gallagher also leads the human resources efforts at the organization. He says he typically does not run into any issues when looking for or hiring individuals. It’s after the hire that the challenge begins. It’s crucial to make sure that the professional fit is there and that the individual fits into the organization’s culture. Because addiction treatment is a progressive and fast-moving culture, getting new people up to speed with training elements after they are hired is the biggest challenge, Gallagher says.

Staffing is more than just adding individuals, but rather hiring individuals who share and believe in the same values as the organization.

Besides shared values, Porreca explains that the organization also searches for the following skills in potential employees:

  • Crisis intervention skills
  • Decision making skills
  • Computer abilities
  • Compassion
  • Communication
  • Time management

Other skills important to organizations such as Solid Landings depend on the title, and may include documentation and insurance expertise, and relevant certifications and licenses.

Supporting those in recovery

Many of those who work in the treatment field are in recovery themselves. Two out of three Solid Landings’ owners are in recovery and the organization makes an effort to offer opportunities to those who have gone through its program or other similar programs.

Typically, an individual who is coming out of treatment and looking for a job will start as a driver at Solid Landings. This, Porreca says, is a good way for the individual to get his or her foot in the door and gain experience related to what working in addiction treatment is all about.

Many times people in recovery come back for a job because they want to give back but soon get confused because they are working to support addiction treatment services while also trying to work through their own program at the same time. “It’s important that they realize that [working in] addiction treatment is different than doing a 12-Step program,” says Porreca.

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