Several dozen staff members from Connecticut Valley Hospital, Whiting Forensic Hospital and Albert J. Solnit Children’s Center North and South blocked traffic in Middletown, chanting as they blocked the intersection of Silver Street and Eastern Drive. “When they say cut back, we say fight back,” they said. “If we don’t get it, shut it down.”
The group is demanding Lamont to fill 345 vacancies at the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services and the Department of Children in Middletown. In a statement, DMHAS spokesman Art Mongillo said the agency is in the process of hiring and “continues to actively recruit to fill current staff vacancies.”
“He did it in his state budget, and he proposed even more funding for these programs in his Connecticut Recovery Act Proposal,” the statement said. “DMHAS and union staff share a mutual goal of providing high-quality client care and maintaining patient and staff safety across the continuum of DMHAS services,” he said. “DMHAS will continue the agency’s practice of regular meetings and conversations with union leadership and members to hear union concerns.”
Max Reiss, Lamont’s chief spokesman, said in statement Wednesday evening that the governor “has followed up his words of support with action when it comes to funding these programs.” “These state facilities in Middletown provide essential lifelines for adults struggling with substance abuse and mental health challenges, and for Connecticut’s at-risk children,” the group said in a statement. “Gov. Lamont’s failure to hire staff has cut the number of addiction services beds down from 110 to 36 beds. The state’s women-only addiction inpatient unit was also closed due to staff shortages.”
“Short-staffing in these buildings is crazy,” said Stephan Bobb, a mental health assistant at CVH’s Woodward Hall. During the hour-long rally, speakers told stories about how the staff shortages impacted their lives.
“We have people on these units working 16 hours a day, at least four days a week, and folks make mistakes,” he said. “We are put in situations where we cannot adequately take care of patients.” Becky Simonsen, vice president of the union representing the state workers, said there is not enough staffing to keep the services running at these facilities. Bobb said the baseline staffing of a unit in his facility is six people, but sometimes they only have four people available to respond to patients, including nurses who he said also have other responsibilities. He also said employees are exhausted from being mandated to work double shifts.
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