June 24, 2021
In a recent announcement to employees, the organization stated that high demand for services has allowed Pine Rest and its Board of Directors to approve an “employee appreciation bonus” intended to both positively impact staff retention as well as express the organization’s gratitude to its employees for their dedication to service during a year of significant challenge brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Everyone has faced struggles during the pandemic. It is certainly a key component in the record number of individuals who have turned to us seeking services,” stated Bob Nykamp, Pine Rest’s vice president and chief operating officer. “Our employees are not immune from those very same struggles. They’ve managed those on a personal level, and on a professional level have experienced unprecedented demand for care. I am extremely proud that Pine Rest is able to, through this bonus, offer some measure of recognition for the tireless work of our staff.”
Pine Rest’s $1.8M investment in employee retention and satisfaction comes at a time in which demand for behavioral health services, particularly among children and adolescents throughout the state, is reaching a critical level.
“In late May, Children’s Hospital Colorado declared a ‘State of Emergency’ for youth mental health due to rising suicide attempts and full beds at pediatric psychiatric hospitals,” stated Mark Eastburg, PhD, Pine Rest’s president and CEO. “We are seeing that exact same scenario here in Michigan. Emergency rooms and pediatric inpatient psychiatric units throughout the state are filling up, forcing them to turn away more children and adolescents in need care than ever before. Any action we can take, including this initiative to demonstrate our appreciation for the work of our staff and retain employees responsible for life-saving care, is critical for our state and for families desperately seeking behavioral health care for their kids.”
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services has experienced a 13% increase in pediatric inpatient volume. The organization’s 62 beds capable of serving children and adolescents have been at or very near capacity since September 2020. Additionally, Pine Rest’s Child & Adolescent Partial Hospitalization Program, in which individuals return home in the evening to practice coping skills learned during the day, has seen a 17% increase in demand since before the pandemic.
According to Dr. Eastburg, the most troubling trend is the rising number of instances in which behavioral health organizations are unable to keep up with demand and must turn away children and adolescents in need of care.
“Compared to the year prior to the pandemic, Pine Rest has seen a 44% increase in pediatric ‘turnaways,’ situations in which our child and adolescent services were at capacity, and we had to work with parents or guardians to find care elsewhere,” Eastburg said. “Other organizations have reported very similar trends, and there have been a number of recent stories from around the state in which parents spend days, even weeks, trying to find appropriate placement for their children. It’s, frankly, heartbreaking.”
Pine Rest’s “employee appreciation bonus” is just one of several steps the organization is taking to address the behavioral health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it is one that is very important, said Bob Nykamp.
“Recognizing healthcare providers everywhere for their essential role in our national, state, and community response to the challenges of the pandemic isn’t just something we should do; it’s something we must do,” Nykamp said. “Everyone needs support and hope during these trying times, and this is especially true of those who have been the providers of that support and hope since the beginning. More has been asked of them than ever before – more individuals to serve, more precautions, procedures, and regulations to keep in mind, possibly more strain on their home and personal lives – I’m glad Pine Rest is part of also offering them more thanks.”