PROVO, Utah (ABC4) – The Utah State Hospital is losing valuable employees. Officials say staffing is down 20 percent. This is at a time when mental health professionals are in high demand.

When the Utah State Hospital is at full staff, it’s roaring with more than 900 employees who care for patients who have mental health needs.

Utah State Hospital

“We have been running about 175 vacancies on average FTE’s here at the hospital,” says Director Dallas Earnshaw.

“When the pandemic first hit us the hospital did a very good job in responding. But over the past year that has reversed and changed, and been much more difficult,” he adds.

Employees and patients battled through COVID-19 outbreaks that strained morale during the pandemic.

Director Earnshaw says he’s offering bonuses, education assistance, retention, and overtime incentives to Utahns and out-of-staters with little to no bites on current jobs.

“If the situation doesn’t turn around and continues to get worse, it could negatively impact our ability to provide the operations and services that we do,” he says.

Utah State Hospital Director Dallas Earnshaw

When asked if it keeps him up at night, Director Earnshaw responded quickly saying, “Yes.”

The shortage doesn’t stop with psychiatric technicians because the hospital needs all kinds of help.

“We also have shortages at our food services department and our custodial department, and so we are able to put people to work immediately,” he adds. “I think we all believe that we are going to be able to manage through these difficult times and be able to hopefully return to an operational level that we cannot be under this kind of strain”