Three significant managerial level positions across the Door County Health and Human Services Department will soon be left empty, according to a staffing update at the Health and Human Services Board meeting Monday.
One vacant position in the department is a treatment court coordinator. Department director Joseph Krebsbach has been providing guidance for the program since the position became vacant in October and said he has been “juggling too many things to really give the support needed.”
“To make sure that program is successful, we need an alternative,” Krebsbach said. “I was thinking that if we had a behavioral health manager with AODA experience they could take the lead on that, but without that option at the moment we need to consider some other things.”
The department has also been seeking a child welfare supervisor since September. Since then, there has been only one applicant, who was unqualified, Krebsbach said.
The staffing update followed behavioral health manager Donna Altepeter’s overview of the program and discussion of her retirement. Altepeter is retiring on Friday.
“I feel like the job is just getting bigger,” Altepeter said. “It feels like it needs more youth, more energy. I think all of the roles in Health and Human Services are going to get bigger and bigger. It’s going to take creativity, flexibility, and a mindset that I think I might have used up. I’ve enjoyed it immensely, but I think there’s a lot coming down the pipe in the next 10 years and it’s going to require a level of creativity, imagination and skill.”
Altepeter highlighted a few challenges she sees coming in the near future for the program. These include the county’s growing homeless population, the continuity of services for clients with substance use problems, a need for more expansive and ongoing services for the county’s aging population, and ever-increasing substance use problems with local youth.
A lack of previous training for incoming behavioral health workers, which the county then has to train, also is a factor in Altepeter’s retirement and is one of the ongoing struggles the program is facing, Altepeter said. Krebsbach said the county hasn’t hired a fully licensed therapist in at least a decade if not more. Training has relied heavily upon Altepeter as manager of the program.
“One thing Donna is phenomenal at is teaching our therapists,” Krebsbach said. “I wondered if that might be her biggest challenge, but I definitely see it as one of her strengths.”
Training therapists and helping them achieve certification is one of Altepeter’s strong points, and potentially one of the most difficult parts of her job, Krebsbach said.
“We take people who are out of school, who need that supervision—that training and molding—we get them to the point where they’re fully licensed and then they often say goodbye,” Altepeter said. “There’s a reward in seeing those folks grow and it feels draining to keep repeating that process, but I think that’s what we’re always going to have to do. It’s hard to recruit fully licensed therapists here.”
Krebsbach said there have been zero candidates to fill Altepeter’s position since the county began advertising the opening last fall. He said he hopes to bring forth an alternative idea involving reorganization of the behavioral health program to the board next month if the department has not gone forward with a candidate by that point.
“This team will need that level of support,” Krebsbach said. “It’s something we will have to work on.”
On all three of these managerial level positions, the department is struggling to find staff, Krebsbach said.
“At this point we’ve continued to try and find some alternative ways of getting it out there, but none of them have been successful at all,” Krebsbach said. “It’s still a challenge for us.”