It Is Nice to Know We Are Not Alone – Or Is It?

July 01, 2018

It seems to me that we have been talking about the workforce crisis in both DD and BH services for forever, but the reality is:

  • the nature of the crisis has changed, and

  • for many years we tried to pretend that, when forced to admit we had high turnover, or a high vacancy rate, it was a temporary problem that we were working to solve!


Now we are reading national reports on the workforce crisis across the country, the challenges with recruiting and retaining staff at the direct care and the professional level, the impact of the lack of pay increases in recent years and/or the absolute lack of qualified staff.

A recent report by National Core Indicators in collaboration with HSRI revealed that the DSP turnover rate in 2016 was 45.5% – is has not improved since then!  Of those DSPs who left work in 2016 approximately 40% had been employed more than a year and a nearly like number had been employed less than six months!  Not only does this have a negative impact on the individuals we support, but it is far more challenging for the mid-level supervisors who are charged with meeting the high standards of the regulatory requirements with inexperienced staff.

Shortages are also critical in several behavioral health disciplines including Psychiatrists and LMHPs.  A recent review of the exceptional data published by the Virginia Department of Health Professions revealed that a critically small percentage of working LCSWs and LPCs work with children as a specialty.  Recent national data indicate that the pool of psychiatrists who work with the public sector and insured populations has declined by 10% from 2003-2013.

I said above that the crisis was changing – in the past we struggled to hire individuals for DSP positions who had bachelor’s or associates degrees; now we struggle to hire any qualified individual.   In the past we struggled to keep qualified licensed staff; now we struggle to find appropriately trained and licensed staff on a consultancy basis to provide the clinical functions and supervision required by regulation.  The “workforce crisis” is a common topic of conversation to which we have all become quietly resigned.

VNPP is:

  • collecting vacancy data to have “local Virginia” data available when we talk to Legislators

  • speaking out directly on the critical need to increase the rates to cover the costs of both the higher wages needed to be competitive and the ongoing costs of recruitment and training

  • asking for specific examples of recruitment costs, programs which have been cut back or closed because they could not be staffed, and other issues directly associated with the workforce crisis.