EYEWITNESS LOCAL NEWSMENTAL HEALTH FACILITIES
from Eyewitness News Online
Overworked Staff, Overcrowding A Concern At WV Mental Health Facilities
Reported by: Dan Matics
Web Producer: Heath Harrison
Reported: Mar. 1, 2013 10:11 PM EST
Updated: Mar. 2, 2013 3:57 PM EST
Huntington , Cabell County , West Virginia
Mental health care and the best way to provide care to those in need has been a conversation that's become more heated over the past few months.
In West Virginia, experts say there are several problems in state run institutions, especially when it comes to staffing.
Overcrowded patients and overworked staff are increasing concerns at state run mental health facilities.
Ashley Gonzales is a former contract worker inside Mildred Mitchell Bateman Hospital, a mental health institution in Huntington.
She worked as a patient advocate, and says workers endure long hours with a large number of patients.
In the last year the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources paid more than a million dollars in overtime costs for Bateman and William Sharpe Hospital in Weston.
An audit released mid-February indicates that some employees are paid more than $100,000 a year in overtime.
"I know that there were concerns there that people had to get 8 hours in between their shift, so, basically, they would do everything they can to minimize it to the eight hours," Gonzales said.
In a statement, the DHHR said "overcrowding is a concern at Mildred Mitchell Bateman Hospital. Regarding allegations of being short staffed, like most hospitals, Bateman hospital has vacancies.
However, we have brought in additional direct care staff on a contractual basis to offset the vacancy rate that currently exists. This, in part, has helped to support lower overtime services provided by our permanent employees."
Gonzales says her concern is mentally exhausted employees may put patients at risk.
"After so many hours, being on mentally at work, you have to wonder if the person is still effective," Gonzales said.
Even with their overtime issues, a Kanawha County circuit judge recently ordered certain employees of Mildred Mitchell Bateman to receive raises.
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