Struggling NYC mental health professionals wanted by documentary filmmaker

...and community mental health can be a hard place to work

Here is a message I recently received and agreed to pass on:

I’m a documentary filmmaker researching a film about therapists working in community mental health centers in New York City.

This topic came to my attention through my sister, who is in the process of applying for licensure and is just about complete her post doc hours while working at a community-based OMH mental health center. While my sister takes her work very seriously, she is not able to make a living wage at this clinic.

In an average week, my sister gets paid for the 25 hours that she spends meeting with clients. But the hours she spends outside the office – writing up notes, answering phone calls and filling out paperwork – are not compensated, even though they can add up to as much as 60 hours a week. What’s more, the center where she works won’t hire her as a full-time employee to avoid providing her with health insurance. After five years of working in this clinic, her earnings are approximately the same: $26,000 a year. She is a New York City resident and does not have enough income to live independently. Her co-workers are in similar situations, many of them forced to cobble together 2-3 jobs at various clinics just to make ends meet. Factor in student debt to the tune of $420,000 and you have a situation that is unworkable.

My sister is not the only therapist struggling to make a living wage at a community mental health center. I believe there is a larger systemic issue here that needs to be addressed.

The goal of my film, which is a short documentary for BRIC TV’s new series Going in With Brian Vines, is to raise awareness. I’m looking for people in the mental health profession who can comment on this issue. What is really going on here? Why aren’t more psychologists speaking out? These are educated professionals earning poverty-line incomes, working without health insurance, overburdened by caseloads, and drowning in student debt. What can be done to make sure that psychologists are compensated fairly for the valuable service they provide?

I look forward to hearing from you with any comments, questions, or suggestions you may have. You can reach me by email or phone.

Thank you,
Nikki Dodd

phone: 646-753-2403

Nikki Dodd