Addiction recovery centers in Medford looking to add staff as demand for services are ‘alarming’

MEDFORD, Ore — Addiction and mental health services locally are continuing to rebound from losing staff during the pandemic – with some adapting to new changes.

Addiction Recovery Center in Medford said its ramping up staff back to pre-pandemic levels. More people are beginning to apply and its roster is back up to a little more than 100.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions at the time, the center was forced to cut capacity by 30% at its 24-7 facilities.

Loris Paris, president and CEO of ARC, noted that many licensed mental health and substance use specialists, started their own services which added to the strain.

“[COVID] restrictions impacted our ability to maintain capacity,” Paris said. “Private practice allows them to make their own hours, own schedule, and there are far less documentation requirements.” 

Paris shared that its working on creative ways to recruit staff. Students facing student loan debt, is one of the main factors that leads aspiring specialists into private practice according to Paris.

Paris said its a long-term issue that needs to be addressed. She adds that they plan to coordinate with people in private practices, to help maintain staff during a time when services are desperately needed.

People need to not come out of school with a mountain of debt that they cant repay.” Paris said. “There’s a lot of positives working at a recovery center.” 

OnTrack, which has offices in Jackson and Josephine counties, says staffing has always been a challenge and COVID didn’t help. However, more help is on the way for the organization.

Eddie Wallace, communications director with OnTrack, shared that many factors went into the shortages – including hesitancy from people entering health care during a pandemic.

Wallace said it also faced resistance, mainly due to its speciality being residential health care for addiction recovery.

“COVID made everything that much more intense and the staff shortages got worse,” Wallace said. “That’s a tall order asking to somebody to come on board for $15 an hour, to work overnight residential care for behavioral health.”

The Oregon Health Authority and other organizations, are beginning to shift more funding and resources into recovery facilities. Part of the housing package passed in the short legislative session earlier this year, included nearly $200 million dollars to strengthen homeless services.

The incoming funding will allow services to expand drastically. Wallace noted that the statistics regarding mental health and substance abuse coming out of the pandemic are alarming.

“There will be more money coming down from OHA from measure 110 soon,” Wallace said. “It’s to help fight what is a huge problem in Oregon and across the country.”

OnTrack applied and was approved for a federal grant to start their own training program. It will allow the organization to help aspiring alcohol and drug counselors get certified, which Wallace hopes will help other organizations locally.

“It’s unprecedented in terms of state money, directed at behavioral health,” Wallace said. “The [COVID] statistics are alarming because of situations like isolation and relapse.”

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