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Colorado offering $14,000 hiring bonuses to bring more nurses to psychiatric hospital in Pueblo

PUEBLO, Colo. (KRDO)--The Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) is recruiting nurses nationwide and is offering a $14,000 sign-on bonus and other benefits for nurses to work in the state’s two psychiatric hospitals in Denver and Pueblo.

The recruiting effort comes amid a nursing shortage.

The Pueblo hospital is the biggest state mental health facility and houses the most people in Colorado, according to CDHS.

The Colorado Mental Health Hospital in Pueblo (CMHHIP) is a forensic hospital that serves individuals with pending criminal charges who require evaluations of competency, individuals who have been found to be incompetent to proceed (restoration treatment), and individuals found to be not guilty by reason of insanity by Colorado's criminal courts.

Colorado, along with the rest of the nation, is experiencing a nursing shortage. The U.S. saw a decline of more than 100,000 registered nurses from 2020 to 2021 and is also facing an expected 10 percent increase in demand for mental health nurses in five years, according to a 2021 report from Mercer.

Since the pandemic, the Pueblo facility and the one located in Denver have been undergoing major staffing struggles.

Currently, 460 people are waiting for beds in a state hospital to become competent to stand trial, according to CMHHP. Leora Joseph, Director of the Office of Civil and Forensic Mental Health, said the state pays $12 million in fines each year because they're not able to move people fast enough from the jail to the hospital.

At CMHHP, they have 94 beds open and at CMHHIF they have 34 beds open, but don't have the stuff to make them available.

In 2022, CDHS was only able to hire four nurses in total between both hospitals.

"I want to fill our beds with the patients who need those beds. And I cannot do that until I have adequate nursing staff," said Joseph.

But Joesph said they have 200 nursing positions available between both facilities.

CDHS said Colorado and 38 other states are part of the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC). Under the NLC, nurses can practice in other participating states without having to obtain additional licenses. The state is hoping new incentives can attract nurses from out of state.

CDHS  announced it is offering a $14,000 bonus and other benefits such as health and dental insurance and disability coverage, among other benefits available to state employees to help staff Colorado’s two psychiatric hospitals.

To curb resignations and incentivize employees to stay, CDHS has a $5,000 retention for staff members. A separate bonus, paid through CDHS’ referral program, also allows employees to receive $1,000 if they refer someone to one of the open positions. 

Joseph said starting July 1, all state employees, including the employees at the Pueblo and Denver facilities, will receive a 5% pay increase.

To view current nursing job openings and learn more about employment at CDHS, click here.

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Barbara Fox

Barbara is a reporter based out of Pueblo for KRDO NewsChannel 13. Learn more about her here.


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