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At OBJ panel, Randy Haffner stresses importance of supporting staff’s mental health

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AdventHealth, an organization rooted in the practice of whole-person care, is redefining the importance of supporting team members’ mental health, said president and CEO of AdventHealth’s Central Florida Division Randy Haffner, recognizing the trauma employees have endured the last three years.

“Just being able to put it out in the open, make it OK to talk about, recognize that we all have challenges, recognize that those challenges are not something that we can leave at the door. And likewise, when you go through what many of our caregivers have gone through, you don't leave that at work. You carry that with you,” Haffner said, recalling images of critically ill patients on ventilators.

Haffner joined leaders from Florida Blue, Avant Healthcare Professionals and Heart of Florida United Way on a panel hosted by the Orlando Business Journal to discuss the importance of supporting mental health needs in the workplace.

All agreed their teams are still dealing with the profound grief wrought by the pandemic and that employers need to offer a multitude of 24/7, 365 mental health services. Panelists said employers have no choice but to adapt, given the impact of the Great Resignation and nationwide nursing shortage.

Randy Haffner, CEO Central Florida Division

AdventHealth’s Employee Assistance Program offers free phone, online or in-person sessions with licensed mental health professionals to help with a variety of issues, such as stress and anxiety, family conflict, legal and financial issues, alcohol and drug use, depression, grief and loss. Team members can also use the Ginger app and Talkspace to chat with a therapist or the new anonymous spiritual care hotline.

Nearly 2,000 team members use the Ginger app and almost 10,000 have gone into counseling through the EAP.

“People don’t cry out for help during normal business hours,” Haffner said. “And we have found that access and that immediate response – even just to a therapist – is the entry into a dialogue that gets them the help they need.”

The hospital system also employs 53 full-time chaplains and 12 licensed mental health consultants to round on units and offer support. This year, mental health consultants have had more than 62,000 encounters with team members.

In addition to traditional health benefits, AdventHealth offers tuition assistance, loan forgiveness programs and more flexible hours. To recruit and retain nurses, the hospital system has formed a nursing advisory panel, expanded care teams to include more PCTs and LPNs and partnered with local colleges to provide hands-on training to student nurses.

“We went to our employees with a pledge and said we pledge to see the whole you and we recognize that there is more to you than what happens at work,” Haffner said of the new offerings. “Every employee is a whole person and the whole person needs to be cared for.”

The need for mental health services is rapidly outpacing the community’s resources, however. A recent study by the Heart of Florida United Way found that addressing the gaps in Orange County’s “broken” mental and behavioral health system will take $49 million. Another analysis reported that Florida ranked 49th for state spending on mental health services and has only 19% of the psychiatrists it needs.

Haffner said you can see the impact of the shortfall inside AdventHealth’s emergency departments.

“We see about 600,000 people a year, and about 9,000 of them have to be put under the Baker Act or Marchman Act because they are going to hurt themselves or someone else,” he said. “If you do the math, that’s 24 a day or one an hour.”

AdventHealth is helping fill that gap outside the hospital walls.

The Hope and Healing Center in Sanford, for example, offers treatment at no cost to residents battling opioid addiction. The Outlook Clinic in downtown Orlando treats depression and anxiety for those without insurance. Mental health screenings have been embedded into the primary care setting and emergency departments.

And last year AdventHealth launched the Center for Advancement and Support of Youth, a first-of-its-kind Central Florida pediatric behavioral health program made possible by a $6 million grant from Dr. Phillips Charities. Once fully implemented, it will provide up to 10,000 child and adolescent psychiatrist visits and 5,500 psychologist visits every year.

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