Addiction Services

Union Calls on State to Hire More Addiction Treatment Workers

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The state has temporarily reduced admissions to addiction treatment beds. The union says there are 150 beds and only 21 of them are full. The union representing healthcare workers says it's a matter of life or death. 

“There just has not been a real emergency and urgency to address this and as they take their time you have individuals in our communities that are suffering,” Kim Piper, vice president of SEIU 1199, said. 

Piper, who works for the union that represents the addiction treatment workers, says the state needs to hire more people. 

“There’s simply a lack of will from the administration on how to fix this problem,” Piper said. 

The problem is there are not enough workers to care for these addicts. 

“They’re homeless, they need food, they need their drug of choice. Because they’re not sleeping until they get a fix. Therefore let me commit a crime. Try to get a fix,” said Victor Rodriguez, an addiction counselor. 

Rodriguez says there are a lot of addicts on the street. 

“If people are paid in a fair manner for these very difficult and involved jobs, these jobs will open because people want the jobs but they want to be treated fairly,” Sen. Saud Anwar, D-South Windsor, said. 

Anwar, who is also a physician, says the state needs to increase incentives for workers. 

“You need to have a lot more investment in this arena,” he said. 

The Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services has 600 vacant positions and as a result admissions for addiction treatment at Connecticut Valley Hospital and Blue Hills Hospital have slowed. 

“We need them to hire over 300 staff by April to really start reopening some of these services,” Piper said. 

“There’s a shortage of workers, essential workers across the board, including at DMHAS. Sense of urgency? Absolutely,” Gov. Ned Lamont said. “Can I get 330 by the end of next month? I don’t know.”

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