Mental health professionals leave CHA; ads call for 44 therapists, social workers

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A sign guides visitors to the emergency entrance of CHA Cambridge Hospital. (Photo: Marc Lévy)

Cambridge Health Alliance mental health professionals have left recently, in part because of changes to the Alliance’s treatment model, leading to the loss of long-time therapists by some patients. The new model “reflects current best practices and provides more options to meet the needs of our patients” and the Alliance expects a “rollover” of the new policy while working on “best transitional care. possible ”for patients whose therapists resign, spokesman David Cecere mentioned.

In an article published last month on the neighborhood email site NextDoor, a person identifying himself as a patient said his psychiatrist over 20 – who was leaving – said patients like him would now benefit from a brief visit to the services of a psychiatrist and then having their medications managed by a primary care physician. “Those of us with long-term care or treatment-resistant depression… would be at a disadvantage,” said the poster, which described seeing his psychiatrist once a month.

A new psychiatrist recommended by other CHA clinicians on his treatment team did not want to accept him as a patient because he needed long-term care, the poster says. He asked others for recommendations on the NextDoor site.

According to the post, around 20 psychiatrists resigned when the changes were introduced. Cecere did not respond to a question asking for numbers and whether other social workers and therapists have also left, nor did she respond to a question about how many people are waiting to see a professional. CHA is one of the largest providers of behavioral health treatment in Greater Boston, particularly for the most seriously ill.

Cecere said the Alliance continues to provide long-term mental health treatment and described the new model as “more patient-centered” and which “would allow us to serve more of our patients in need.” He gave no details, however. He said behavioral health professionals have also left because they have retired or made “lifestyle changes.” At the same time, there is a nationwide staffing shortage in behavioral health and other healthcare disciplines “which has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said. .

Seeking psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers

“We are actively recruiting and hiring suppliers to join our team,” he said. A search on the CHA job site on Tuesday found 27 listings for psychiatrists and psychologists, many with multiple openings, and 17 listings for clinical social workers, including one for openings in a pool of temporary social work workers. . The Alliance is also seeking two Division Heads of Geriatric Psychiatry at Cambridge and Everett Hospitals.

The departure of therapists left some particularly difficult patients – those who started seeing their clinicians while the Alliance was still providing mental health care to people who did not have a primary care physician in the system. They can’t see a new CHA psychiatrist; the Alliance began limiting services to its own patients in 2009, Cecere said. A patient who loses her psychiatrist and is not in the system said in an email Tuesday: “It is impossible to find a new psychiatrist in a timely manner at the moment. “

“Our case managers work closely with patients who do not have a CHA primary care provider to identify care options,” said Cecere. The patient, who did not want to be named due to the stigma associated with mental illness, said she had received no help other than “a list of places that provide treatment.” The first date she found was at the end of December, she said, and “I hope I have enough medicine.”

Meanwhile, the Alliance is expanding behavioral health services to inpatients, opening 42 beds for children and adolescents on the Somerville campus. The CHA will also increase the number of adult beds in Cambridge and Everett hospitals.

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