Members of the Missouri Mental Health Task Force hear about various problems in the state mental health system, with lack of money surfacing often. Mental health workers went years without a pay raise, until a four percent hike last year. But Interim Mental Health Director Ron Dittemore says pay still lags way behind. He points to the Marshall Habilitation Center, which doesn’t pay enough to attract enough workers. Dittemore says the ethanol plant, pork plant and canning factory in the Marshall area all pay higher starting salaries than the state mental hospital located there. Recently, the Department of Mental Health was able to recruit 22 nurses and put them through training, but Dittemore says it wasn’t enough to plug staffing holes. He says that by the time the 22 had completed training and gone to work, 19 others had left, leaving the department with a net gain of three. Dittemore says the department will ask for an eight percent pay raise for its direct care staff next year, with an eye toward another four percent in two years to help make salaries competitive.
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