To hear the Show Me Today interview with Missouri Department of Corrections Director Anne Precythe, click below.

To hear the Show Me Today interview with Missouri Department of Mental Health Director Valerie Huhn, click below.

Missouri’s 50,000 state workers could soon be getting the largest pay raise in state history. Gov. Mike Parson is asking for the pay boost to help fill 7,000 state government job openings.

He is asking the state Legislature to pass an 8.7% Cost of Living increase for all of Missouri’s state workers and a $2-per-hour bump in pay for group care employees working night shifts.

The governor’s goal is to have the pay increases in place by March 1.

Anne Precythe is the director of the Missouri Department of Corrections. She is ecstatic about the governor’s proposal.

Precythe has the largest workforce in state government – and the largest rate of job openings.

“When you look at businesses like Corrections, Youth Services, Social Services, Mental Health, we can’t wait for this type of pay increase to get people in the door. We need people in the door now,” she said.

Missouri has 19 state prisons with about 20,000 inmates. As of October 2022, the agency’s vacancy rate was 24%.

Precythe said the department is struggling to fill jobs in St. Joseph, Bowling Green and Fulton. She said prisons in Licking, Fordland and Chillicothe are better staffed.

“My workforce, they’re tired. They do an extraordinary amount of overtime,” said Precythe. “Forty hours a week is not the normal right now. It’s around 60 hours a week is the minimum. We have case managers, recreation officers, clerical that have worked in other roles, filling in some of our custody posts. We have probation and parole officers filling in some of our prisons to help out. It is an all hands on deck and that’s what we do in Corrections.”

The pay increase would mean a new correctional officer’s starting pay would be about $41,000. For a probation and parole officer, the starting pay would be roughly $45,000.

The department has come a long way. According to Precythe, the starting pay for a correctional officer was $28,000 five years ago.

It has part-time and full-time jobs available.

Valerie Huhn is the director of the Missouri Department of Mental Health. She is also pleased with the governor’s mission for a pay increase.

Her agency cares for people with mental illness or developmental disabilities.

“It gets more difficult to just get people to do a lot of the important aspects of treatment and habilitation that we don’t necessarily get to do at the level we want to do because we’re really just trying to cover the day-to-day tasks at this point. That also means that we’ve got people waiting for services across the state. If we can’t staff it, we can’t have a bed that’s filled,” she said. “We have a 25-bed ward that is sitting vacant at Fulton State Hospital at this point because we cannot staff that ward. And so, individuals that should be coming to Fulton State Hospital because they need the treatment and support that we can provide are now sitting in county jail waiting for an ability to get into a state hospital.”

She said her agency has about 1,600 job openings.

“We require our employees to work a lot of overtime that are with us right now,” she said. “An employee that works overtime is, while they do an amazing job, are they performing at their utmost top level all the time, probably not but they’re there and they’re delivering support.”

To view the job available with the Missouri Department of Mental Health click here.

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