Agencies across Southeast Michigan are working to recruit behavioral health workers during the COVID-19 pandemic due to an increase in substance abuse and rates of depression.
Ky Direzze, 30, has struggled with mental health issues for most of her life. When she lost her job in the restaurant industry, she fell into a deep depression.
“But it feels like you’re in a pit sometimes, you can’t climb out of it. So, it started to hit me really hard right when everything shut down -- about mid-March. And I just started spiraling emotionally. It got to a point it was so bad that I couldn’t sleep,” Direzze said.
When Direzze’s spouse lost their job, the couple depleted their savings -- which made things even more stressful.
“It just was heartbreaking. So, it was, it was tough. And then I started to seek out therapy, which was also helpful,” Direzze said.
For the last several months Direzze has been getting treatment at Community Care Services. It’s a nonprofit agency in Lincoln Park that offers mental health and substance abuse treatment for people in Wayne County.
“We’re providing very limited face-to-face in-person services. Probably about 95 to 98 percent of our services are provided video or telephonic,” Susan Kozak said.
Kozak is the executive director of Community Care Services. She said she’s worried about the trends she’s seeing.
“The thing that scares me the most is we don’t have the appropriate number of professional staff to deal with the number of people that need help,” Kozak said.
Kozak said that at any given time her agency had roughly 20 positions to fill.
“I think it’s an issue of people not wanting to work in this field because they’re stressed themselves. And this can be very depressing work. And it’s hard to work and it’s difficult and it’s draining,” Kozak said. “You know they’re sitting home along with these clients who are struggling and suffering more than they ever have.”
Community Care Services serves roughly 6,000 children and families in Detroit and Downriver communities. Despite the rise in mental health issues, many community agencies across Southeast Michigan are seeing fewer clients than they did last year.
A lot of challenges are putting a bigger strain on a system that’s already struggling to help people who need it now more than ever. For Direzze, she’s continuing therapy. She encourages others not to be afraid and to lean on others for support.
A recent national survey found that young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 years old are especially hard hit and are twice as likely as adults to report new or increased substance abuse during the pandemic.