Butler Behavioral Health closes Oxford office, citing lack of staff

Patients may seek therapy sessions through telehealth. FILE PHOTO

Credit: TNS

caption arrowCaption
Patients may seek therapy sessions through telehealth. FILE PHOTO

Credit: TNS

Tele-health services will be available

After five years offering mental health services to the area through a local office, Butler Behavioral Health has announced the closing of its office here due to difficulties maintaining staffing.

They will continue to serve local residents through their Hamilton office and Tele-Health, however, with much the same services offered prior to five years ago.

The announcement came in a Jan. 14 letter to stakeholders from BBH President and CEO Randy Allman who wrote that the office had been temporarily closed since September due to lack of staff. He said the Oxford office had opened in January 2017 with two full-time therapists and a medical provider recruited and plans for a third therapist.

“Over the last five years, the Oxford office has been challenged with recruitment of qualified therapists. Many different strategies have been taken to recruit and retain staff. In September 2021, the only therapist employed at the Oxford office resigned for a position closer to home — thus leaving the Oxford office without any clinical staff,” Allman wrote. “At that time, BBH had not had any applicants for the Oxford office in more than nine months. A national recruiter was hired to better assist with recruitment efforts. Over a four-month period, the national recruiter was not able to secure any applicants. In total, a 13-month search did not produce any viable candidates.”

Butler Behavioral Health opened its Oxford office in response to efforts by the Coalition for a Healthy Community to lure a mental health provider to the area after the departure of one. BBH had been serving the area prior to 2017 with a variety of services through its Hamilton office and Allman emphasized that will continue even without a local office.

Kip Alishio, who chairs the coalition’s mental health work group, regrets the situation causing the BBH action but understands it. He emphasized the fact that local residents can still be served by BBH, just not out of an Oxford location.

“For the last six months or so, nationwide, mental health services have been in a crisis and it has moved to Southwest Ohio. Individuals experiencing mental health (need for) services have seen a decrease in the number of providers,” Alishio said. “I want to stress, Butler Behavioral Health continues to provide community-based services in Oxford and continued individual and family therapy services in their Hamilton office and through Tele-Health.”

He said there is a long history of mental health services in the community during his 40 years living here. Originally, an agency called Together provided such services and later the Community Counseling and Crisis Center and when it disbanded, St. Aloysius from Cincinnati came here.

“When St. Aloysius left unexpectedly about four years ago, we were left without any community-based service. We reached out to BBH to ask if they could (open an office here),” Alishio said. “They worked closely with us and for two-and-a-half years, it worked fairly well. We very much appreciate the efforts.”

People needing services can still call BBH in Hamilton but Alishio said the coalition has a community mental health services Resource Guide available online at healthyoxfordarea.org/resources/ which is frequently updated.

The most recent update, he said, was made in December.

They have also received funding to make that Resource Guide interactive so it can be searched according to specific needs or even specific companies. That is expected to be ready in about three months.

Amy Macechko, the coalition’s project coordinator, echoed Alisio’s comments emphasizing the commitment of BBH to continue serving the Oxford area, although not from a local office.

“They are definitely still a presence, just not a physical location. We need to wrap our minds around that,” she said. “We are still very much committed to the mental health work group’s vision to provide mental health services to the Oxford area.”

She said tele-health services are helpful not only in a pandemic, but also in general for people with transportation barriers and other types of barriers. She expressed appreciation to BBH for their providing service to the area, even though not in a physical office in the community.

“This is not an Oxford-area problem. It is a mental health crisis of demand being greater than what is available. I give credit to Randy and his team for their creativity and innovation to finding therapists. It just didn’t pan out,” Macechko said. “We appreciate the partnership with Butler Behavioral Health. They provide excellent services.”

Allman said in his letter, BBH has been providing a variety of community-based services to the Oxford area long before the Oxford office opened and will continue to provide those services without any changes. Funds are available for service to the Oxford area, too.

“BBH has special grant funds to utilize for residents (adults and youth) of the Talawanda school district. Talawanda residents choosing to utilize the Hamilton or Middletown offices will have access to these special funds to assist them with the cost of their services,” he wrote.

About the Author