Demand for mental health workers soars in Stratford

STRATFORD – Tamara Trojanowski said she remembered speaking to a neighbor once, and something she said marked her in light of the recent increase in demand for social workers in Stratford.

“We’re all in the same storm, but we’re not all in the same boat,” Trojanowski said.

Trojanowski is the director of community and senior services at the city’s Baldwin Center, which provides social services to senior residents. She and Amanda Meeson, executive director of Sterling House Community Center, said there was an increased demand for mental health services in the city. This has resulted in longer wait times to see a social worker or mental health professional.

The city has recognized the increase in demand, according to health director Andrea Boissevain.

“My colleagues are certainly saying there is a need,” she said Thursday, the day before to host the third in a series of webinars on the effects of COVID on mental health.

We just did (one) with old people, with teenagers, then the session (Friday) will be devoted to working parents. We are aware of the impact of mental health problems, ”said Boissevain.

On top of that, Stratford Senior Services hired two social workers to help meet the needs of Stratford seniors, Boissevain said.

But it’s not just the older residents who are asking for help. Trojanowski said residents young and old are seeking help even as the pandemic appears to be receding.

Based on 211Counts data, a portal that compiles information on calls made to seek social services, 53 calls were made to Stratford for mental health services in October 2021. That’s six more than in October 2020. As of September 2021, there were 79 calls for mental health services, up from 34 a year ago.

Because there is more demand and residents’ mental health needs vary, a person in need may not receive help in a timely manner, Trojanowski said.

“What we are seeing is less accessibility to mental health treatments, due to the increased demand,” she said. “You don’t necessarily need to be seen by a social worker for treatment. You would like to be seen by a licensed mental health professional, and there are different disciplines, with treatments.

Trojanowski said the causes of the increase in demand vary. Some residents are struggling to cope with the loss of a loved one due to COVID. Others are unable to cope with the uncertainty of the pandemic.

So she said staff at the Baldwin Center try to look at individual risk factors to see how best to meet a person’s needs.

“What we’re trying to look at are the different risk and protective factors in people’s lives? How to reduce the risk factors? How to increase the protective factors? she said.

Although COVID is a major problem, Trojanowski warned that it was not necessarily the main cause of the increase in demand. Difficult financial circumstances can also have an impact on mental health. In her experience, poverty damages mental health, she said.

Stratford doesn’t have a lot of affordable housing, she says. As a result, the center has also made resources available to residents who need help making ends meet as part of the city government’s Stratford Strong recovery initiative.

Meeson also ‘compassion fatigue’ has led to an increased shortage of mental health professionals and social workers compared to medical professionals.

Although Sterling House does not employ social workers, Meeson has told community meetings that she has seen an increase in the backlog of social workers because burnout has taken some away from the profession, leaving fewer people available to work with clients.

“What we heard at these meetings are just long waiting lists, in terms of accessing a social worker or mental health professional,” she said. “Then you complicate it with this kind of weird hiring climate, this big resignation as people call it, and people not being served in a timely manner. “

Meeson said that if organizations like Sterling House and the Baldwin Center are meeting the needs of residents, the townspeople must also make a difference.

“Communities must mobilize to meet these challenges. I’ve learned that none of us can do it alone, ”she said.

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