Mental health workers picket about conditions

Mental health workers picket about conditions
By: Arnold Wyrick
Anna, IL - With their picket signs held high more than a 150 employees at Choate Mental Health facility in Anna, Illinois took their complaints over their working conditions to the public.  The workers say they're forced to work overtime without a choice.
"We're mandated for the next shift.  See what we have here is you work a shift, and then they're short employees for the next shift.  That means you have to stay over and work that extra shift.  So that means you're here for 16 plus hours in one day," says Mike Estel Chief Stewart Local #141.
But it's not only the longer hours on the job that some employees are complaining about.  It's also the lack of time they get to spend with their families, that has some of them upset.
"You get to a point to where you either have to sacrifice sleep to see the kids, or to even accomplish tasks around the house.  Mentally, and physically it drains you.   It even makes home life a little harder some times," says Cary Quick a Mental Health Technician.
Their union AFSCME, figures that the workers have clocked more than 8,000 hours of overtime in the past month.  That's equal to paying 51 full time employees a regular wage.  And leaving the remaining workers too tired to do their jobs proficiently.
"The patients are our top priority here.  But sometimes when you're working 16 hours a day you know 4 to 5 days a week, we can't give our patients the best possible care that they need too," says Anthony Lincoln a Mental Health Technician.
Tom Green a spokesperson with the Illinois Department of Human Services, says they are working on a staffing plan that includes hiring more workers at the Choate Mental Health Center in Anna.