WellSpan Health is investing more than $30 million to expand its behavioral health services across south central Pennsylvania in response to growing demand for services.
And the health care system is looking to add 200 professionals to its team.
To lead the expansion, WellSpan hired Dr. Shannon Gordon as vice president and Dr. Kenneth Rogers as vice president and chief medical officer of WellSpan Behavioral Health Network.
“There is a real need for behavioral health services,” said Rogers. While the pandemic brought the need to the forefront, he said WellSpan was seeing the need for beds and services grow over the past six or seven years. That, coupled with a nationwide shortage of health care professionals, the need is great.
Gordon said they are looking to hire RNs, LPNs, psychiatric technicians, social service specialists, therapists, peer support specialists and advanced practitioners.
“We are a place of hope and help and we invite like-minded people to join our team,” she said. “This is an awesome place to learn, grow and give.”
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, one in five adults experience a mental illness, yet fewer than half of those receive treatment.
Locally, WellSpan has seen a 30% increase in behavioral health patients in 2022 compared to 2021. Behavioral health visits to the emergency departments have also doubled, Gordon said.
WellSpan said it will continue to respond to this mental health crisis through programs such as the START Clinic in York, which has helped more than 1,500 people since opening in 2021, behavioral health consultants in emergency departments, crisis worker partnerships with police departments, and expanded access.
Part of the $30 million investment is the expansion of WellSpan Philhaven in Mount Gretna. Gordon said the project which is adding 140 beds, is nearly complete and a ribbon cutting will be held at the end of January.
WellSpan Philhaven teams across the region annually serve 64,000 patients with behavioral health needs across WellSpan’s six counties, she said.
Also planned is an addition of 56 beds at WellSpan York’s behavioral health unit when the hospital renovations are complete by the end of 2024, Rogers said.
And York ACT, the assertive community treatment program, will hold a grand reopening soon. Two mobile teams work out of the facility, now located at 150 Roosevelt Ave, Suite 100, to serve the community by visiting severely ill patients who don’t want to seek inpatient treatment.
Teams of doctors, nurses and therapists work with them to ensure they take medications properly and provide housing support and other services, they said.
Gordon said WellSpan is holding a series of virtual and in-person hiring events throughout the month.
“When people think about behavioral health careers, they think of doctors. But the front-line workers are needed as well,” Rogers said. “They provide day to day care for both inpatient and outpatient clients.”
Rogers said psychiatric technicians work with patients daily. “They have conversations, serve meals and are the ones who calm patients down when they get upset.”
Because they work with patients more than anyone else, “we want to make sure they are well trained,” he said.
“We hire for the heart and train for skill,” Gordon added. “This is a meaningful job and offers a path for them.”
Gordon explained that the technicians who facilitate morning check ins and conduct therapy programs, can go on to become licensed therapists if they choose. “They provide a healing presence.”
“We are in a time where behavioral health is incredibly important and we are trying to be on the cutting edge,” Rogers said. “We will continue to do that through this investment and outreach in the community. We want to attract people who want to help us be number one in the region.”
“We are a trusted part of the community, and we are committed,” Gordon said. “We believe there is no health without behavioral health.”
“We are offering virtual and onsite job fairs and are simplifying the hiring process,” Rogers said.
Along with that, WellSpan is reaching out to high schools and colleges to introduce students to career opportunities in hopes of generating interest in the behavioral health field.