The Cortland County’s Family and Child Counseling Services have filed a request for federal funding through the county’s American Rescue Plan that would help resolve staffing concerns at a time when state funding has become competitive.
The managing director of the family and child counseling, Lisa Hoeschele, told the members of the The Federal Aid Allocation Citizens Advisory Committee on Tuesday, the request for $ 100,000 funding would help stabilize the organization’s budget for the next year and do significant work in retaining highly skilled employees and win.
Funding would help, in part, to pay for in-school support clinics, children’s services, and other substance use-related programs, Hoeschele said.
For local organizations providing counseling on mental health and substance use disorders, Hoeschele found that securing funding is more focused on applying for competitive grants.
“Often, When we apply for grants, funders are uncomfortable with funding staff and operations, and that’s a shame because in our business, it’s the people who do the work, ”she said. “Without highly qualified and highly qualified staff, the services we offer cannot continue in our community.”
Hoeschele said factors such as lower salaries compared to other areas in the region make it difficult to attract and retain employees. Currently, the starting price for an employee serving in the psychosocial counseling service for the Cortland County’s Family and Child Counseling Service is approximately $ 48,000. Hoeschel added that government accreditation agencies require employees to acquire complex college degrees, including master’s degrees.
“These are very challenging positions,” added Hoeschele. “Our retention rate is a challenge. People are paid more elsewhere and we just can’t keep up. “
Hoeschele noted that while the organization’s retention rate in Cortland County has improved over the years, it is still below the 45 percent retention rate for mental health workers across the state. She also pointed out that salaries for mental health and addiction counseling workers elsewhere in the county range from $ 56,000 to $ 58,000 a year.
“(A lack of continuity among employees) contributes to a decline in the course of treatment in our children,” said Hoeschele.
The organization has grown over the past 10 years. While most of its staff is based in Cortland County, the Family and Child Care Center operates in five other neighboring counties.
“The majority of our employees are here and we feel, especially in the city center, as an economic engine when it comes to adding services, support and personnel from our community,” said Hoeschele.
The number of people in Cortland using the organization’s advisory services has also continued to grow.
“We have identified a significant need for mental health needs, particularly for children, and particularly since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Hoeschele. “The fact that these growing needs are being driven by COVID does not negate the fact that the rise in mental health is a long-term problem when it comes to providing and expanding services.”
Hoeschele noted that the agency had a 2010 operating budget of $ 2 million and employed 30 people. Now, she said, the organization has a budget of $ 20 million and employs 150 to 200 people.
“It doesn’t suggest that we are looking for ways to keep providing services as we can, but it does suggest that there is an absolute pandemic when it comes to depression, trauma, mental illness and addiction problems,” she said.