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DHHS reveals strategies to solve Mental Health staffing shortage

EUREKA- While a staffing shortage continues in Humboldt County's Mental Health Department, on Monday the Department of Health and Human Services unveiled three strategies they say will help recruit and retain mental health doctors on the North Coast.

DHHS Director Phil Crandall outlined those strategies, the biggest of which: hiring a recruiting firm to bring in 6.8 full time mental health specialist positions. Crandall said the department is in final negotiations with a firm and plans to bring the contract in front of the board of supervisors by march seventeenth. Once filled, the positions will use all remaining funding in the budget allotted for staffing within the department. Meanwhile, DHHS will be bringing in temporary traveling doctors, known as locums, and using telepsychiatrists to see patients. Crandall said he doesn't have a timeline of when the new permanent positions will be filled.


"Yes it will take time, but they can do it a lot better than we can," Crandall said. "And along with our locum tenants and our existing medical staff, we should be able to manage the transition smoothly, hopefully without any breaks in service, and that's the main thing, you know, people need to understand that we will continue to provide service during this transition through any and all means."


The department is also working on internal strategies to recruit and retain staff including monetary and other incentives for staff working in intensive settings. When asked if doctors who have resigned will be coming back, Crandall said he does not have an answer but DHHS will consider them if they wish to return. As for the letters written by Dr. Greenberg and Dr. Christensen alerting the county about ongoing department problems, Crandall said since then DHHS has been conducting weekly meetings with all staff about their concerns.

Finally, the third strategy the department will try is expanding the use of telemedicine to supplement staff and bring in more expertise. Although costly, Crandall said telemedicine is becoming a necessary tool for modern medicine and will help serve the expanse of the north coast better.

As for staff safety concerns at Sempervirens, Crandall said once more staff is in place the problem should be minimized. However, they are working with law enforcement to find alternative solutions.