ELIZABETHTOWN — Since the beginning of the year, Essex County Mental Health Services has not been able to find a staff psychiatrist for its clinic.
The county agency’s staff psychiatrist/medical director resigned on Christmas Eve.
Mental Health Director Stephen Valley told the Board of Supervisors Human Services Committee at a recent session that they will keep looking.
“Things are moving very slowly,” he said. “We’ve had no response to our advertising.”
The psychiatrist/medical director renders psychiatric and neurological diagnostic services for patients of County Mental Health Services, provides patient treatment and serves as the leader of the interdisciplinary treatment staff.
To fill the gap, the department has increased its tele-psychiatry contract and expanded use of a psychiatric nurse-practitioner.
Supervisor Thomas Scozzafava (R-Moriah) asked Valley if the problem is insufficient pay or a general shortage of psychiatrists.
“The No. 1 issue is the shortage,” Valley said. “I looked at a survey — 40 percent of all the psychiatric positions in the state at hospitals are vacant.”
Valley said 58 percent of current practicing psychiatrists are nearing retirement.
“It’s an issue across the state and the country,” he said. “That’s the No. 1 issue.”
The Essex County Mental Health Clinic in Elizabethtown serves Essex County residents who need mental-health services for a range of diagnoses.
Valley said their recruiting efforts have included newspaper and online ads, a job posting on the American Psychiatric Association website and contacts with medical schools in the region to see if they have any psychiatrists coming out of residency who might be interested.
None has yielded results so far, he said.
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