Members of District 1199 New England who are state healthcare workers employed by the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS) held a rally on Tuesday, July 19th at the DMHAS office in downtown Hartford, calling on DMHAS to expand access to vital services Connecticut residents rely on, fill hundreds of vacant positions, and reset state facilities to full capacity.
The DMHAS is operating its addiction services under 50% capacity due to an acute staffing crisis even as overdose deaths have reached record highs over the last year. Seeing unprecedented demands for mental health and addiction services and on the heels of a wave of retirements of frontline staff, healthcare workers are calling on DMHAS to immediately post 400 vacant positions by August so Connecticut residents can get the lifesaving care they need. Healthcare workers are urging DMHAS to make every effort to recruit and retain healthcare workers, especially after significant improvements in hiring rates for nurses, doctors, psychologists, and other healthcare staff were negotiated last spring.
During the rally, frontline staff from Blue Hills Hospital (BHH) and Connecticut Valley Hospital (CVH) delivered a letter to DMHAS Commissioner Nancy Navaretta outlining the urgent need to staff lifesaving services as Black, Latino, API and white working-class communities face overlapping crises of opioid addiction and mental health.
WHO: SEIU 1999NE state mental health and addiction service workers
WHAT: Rally at DMHAS commissioner’s office to demand urgent staffing and expanding lifesaving services
WHERE: 410 Capitol Ave, Hartford, CT
There are nearly 1,000 open positions across DMHAS. However, only 14 of these positions are posted on the DMHAS website and open to applicants. Connecticut Valley Hospital and Blue Hills Hospital are the only two facilities in the state that offer the highest level of medically managed addiction care. Even as CVH is turning away at least 20 patients a day seeking care due to understaffing, there have only been 6 hires made directly to their Addiction Services Division since 2020. Tuesday’s march will highlight the urgent need for Connecticut’s Department of Administrative Services to post open positions and prioritize hiring. The Black, brown, API and white workers on the frontlines and the patients they serve deserve no less.
DMHAS is responsible for ensuring lifesaving addiction and mental health services are accessible and affordable to all Connecticut residents, no matter their race, income, or where they live. Closures, short-staffing, and reduced capacity at facilities has dramatically limited caregivers’ ability to provide these services. Patients in need of treatment are denied care, forced onto long waitlists, shunted to emergency rooms, or referred to unaffordable private facilities. Meanwhile, the need for mental healthcare and addiction treatment in Connecticut is skyrocketing: from 2019 to 2021, deaths from overdoses have increased by over 25%.
Connecticut providers are demanding that DMHAS:
- Post the job openings for Mental Health Assistants (MHA) and Forensic Treatment Specialists (FTS)
- Restore the Addiction Services Division to its full 152-patient capacity at BHH and CVH by August 2022
- Post the job openings for 400 staff by August to begin filling the 900 vacant positions in DMHAS
- Develop a plan to expand capacity at CVH and BHH that meets the growing demand for lifesaving care
Contact: Nina Wheeler, firstname.lastname@example.org, 339-234-0502
Rebecca Simonsen, email@example.com