Mental health facilities are losing workers to Chick-fil-A, Virginia official says

John Littel, Virginia secretary of health and human resources, told the state General Assembly's Joint Commission on Health Care that mental health facility workers are leaving their positions for those at fast food restaurants such as Chick-fil-A, Virginia Mercury reported May 25.

The comment is in response to Virginia's mental health facility labor shortage. Staffers are leaving direct care positions because of the low pay in relation to the difficulty of positions.

"Part of it is some of those people do get paid less than you might get in fast food or Target or Walmart or something. And it's not as stressful." Mr. Littel said.

According to the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, average pay for entry-level direct care jobs currently ranges from a little under $12 an hour to about $17 an hour.

In 2021, facilities were operating with only 65 percent to 70 percent of positions filled. At the same time, most had met or exceeded their available bed space, the Virginia Mercury reported in April 2021.

In the meeting, Mr. Littel said he's hopeful that the June 1 vote on the state budget will dedicate more funding to the mental health sector, allowing for better pay and conditions for mental health workers.

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