Last month, the mass resignations of psychiatrists at the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Mental Health branch highlighted the abysmal safety and workload concerns at the County hospital and outpatient clinics. Apparently, DHHS administrators dropped the ball by ignoring the warning signs as evidenced by failing to replace one psychiatrist who gave notice over one year before departing. Services provided by the Mental Health branch are vital to the safety of our community and to the well-being of our fellow citizens needing these services. Administrators applied a “Band-Aid” by procuring the services of traveling/telecommuting providers.
There are also problems in the Social Services Branch. During a “Worker Safety” demonstration that took place in front of the courthouse on March 17, 2015, it was noted that social workers face daunting caseloads and must work overtime to compensate for the lack of available foster parents and staffing shortages, particularly in Child Protective Services (CPS). As a community, we value the safety of children and have invested CPS social workers with extraordinary powers to remove children from their parents/families when maltreated. Can these decisions be made in a skilled, just and consistent manner if these workers face desperately unsafe conditions and caseloads that produce burnout?
Given the failure of imagination plaguing administrators (and County Supervisors) to find lasting solutions for these persistent problems, the public must insist on real solutions — not just temporary “Band-Aid” fixes when “chemotherapy” solutions are warranted.