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Foundations commit $300K to strengthening mental health pipeline for Lancaster County

Intelligencer Journal - 1/19/2020

CHI St. Joseph Children's Health has been searching for a child and adolescent psychiatrist for more than a year now, vice president of operations Beth Grossman said, and meanwhile it has a waitlist and can’t serve new patients.

Amid a nationwide shortage in the field, she said, “this is a common challenge that organizations are having to fill psychiatric positions.”

On Friday, Lancaster Osteopathic Health Foundation announced a new effort to address such difficulties by building the mental health talent pipeline here, thanks to a $150,000Steinman Foundation grant that it is matching.

The Steinman Foundation is a local, independent family foundation funded by the companies that comprise Steinman Communications; those companies include LNP Media Group.

“Many youth complete both depression, anxiety, and suicide screening in schools, but families struggle to schedule appointments for therapy, and wait times are long,” Lancaster Osteopathic Health said, noting many visits are scheduled three to four months in advance.

Anna Brendle Kennedy, executive director of Lancaster Osteopathic, said the initiative will run three years, with five organizations given up to $20,000 a year to help at least one person get the supervision required to be licensed.

The program is for people who have earned master’s degrees in the field but can’t seek licensure until they have been supervised for up to 3,000 clinical hours — which can be hard for organizations to offer.

Brendle Kennedy said applications are being accepted now, and organizations selected can use the funds to support the fellows or the staffers supervising them or both.

Susan Blue, CEO and owner of Community Services Group, said the issue is “a very big problem” for organizations providing outpatient therapy, and good supervision is vital to a successful career.

In addition to its direct benefits, she said, she’s hoping the program will establish processes within participating organizations that they can continue even after it stops.

“Access to high-quality mental health services is an integral piece of a thriving community,” said Shane Zimmerman, president of the Steinman Foundation. “Increasing the number of mental health professionals in our county is essential to ensure everyone has access to the care they need.”

Dan Zarecky, CEO of Lancaster Behavioral Health Hospital, indicated that the tight labor market isn't helping the shortage, and said the hospital "has always taken a stance within the community to support the services and not create a displacement. For example, hiring a provider from a local agency that would create a shortage somewhere else."

Crédito: HEATHER STAUFFER | Staff Writer