Recruit-Hire-Retain: Navigating COVID-19 staffing challenges in behavioral healthcare

Mat Roosa, LCSW-R
NIATx Coach

“Our program is fully staffed with a diverse and skilled team. Our team members usually stay for a long time, but when a staff member does leave, we are able to quickly hire a qualified replacement.”

How many of today’s leaders in behavioral health can make such a claim? 

Could this assertion become your reality in today’s challenging environment?

High demand for services, macro-economic factors, and staff burnout have left supervisors scrambling to fill open positions and pulling double shifts to cover the holes in the staffing schedule. I spoke recently with a residential program supervisor about these challenges, and she quietly began to cry over the futility of her daily efforts to deliver the care she felt so committed to providing. 

This personal toll on staff leads to the economic challenge of high-cost staff turnover, as systems spend resources on the constant cycle of hiring, training, and lost productivity. 

The NIATx Answer

For almost 20 years, behavioral health providers have used the NIATx model to tackle a wide array of challenges. Our signature training, The NIATx Change Leader Academy (CLA), has trained thousands of individuals to use NIATx tools to increase client access and retention, build cultural intelligence, strengthen peer recovery services, and adopt and implement evidence-based practices. 

In 2022, we are focusing the NIATx CLA training lens on special topics, including the COVID workforce challenge. 

The NIATx Change Leader Academy-COVID Workforce Challenges (March 8-29) will address the three core workforce challenges of staff recruitment, hiring, and retention. In addition, participants will learn how to develop change projects to test improvements related to key staffing questions:

1. What can we do to increase the number of eligible applicants who apply for positions?

2. How can we ensure that the desired candidates accept our employment offers?

3. What actions can we take that will increase the length of employee service? 

Join us!

The NIATx process improvement tools you’ll learn in the CLA work for any quality improvement needs. Many organizations report that simply engaging staff members on NIATx change teams—regardless of the change topic—helps retain staff. Team members experience increased job satisfaction and engagement with their peers as they work together to achieve measurable improvements in service delivery.  

Now is the time to explore how NIATx can aid your recruitment, hiring, and retention efforts. Join us to learn how to use rapid cycle PDSA testing to find the best staffing strategies for your organization.

Learn more and register for the NIATx Change Leader Academy Special Focus: COVID Workforce Challenges

Mat Roosa was a founding member of NIATx and has been a NIATx coach for a wide range of projects. He works as a consultant in quality improvement, organizational development and planning, and implementing evidence-based practices. Mat also serves as a local government planner in behavioral health in New York state. His experience includes direct clinical practice in mental health and substance use services, teaching at the undergraduate and graduate levels, and human service agency administration. You can reach Mat at

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