The Willapa Behavioral Health Employees Association (WBHEA) encourages all to be knowledgeable about the current environment at Willapa Behavioral Health (WBH) and to be aware of misinformation.

Myth: WBHEA doesn’t exist.

Fact: WBHEA exists and is growing! We are made up of 25 members, 17 of whom are current employees. We are all working together to make positive changes at Willapa Behavioral Health.

Myth: WBHEA’s existence is based on one person.

Fact: WBHEA’s existence is for all concerned employees. While the CEO targeted one employee for the most recent dismissal, members of WBHEA are concerned about many negative factors within the agency, including the treatment of female staff. Some members have had very limited interaction with the dismissed individual.

Myth: If I join WBHEA, management will find out I joined.

Fact: WBHEA protects members’ privacy as much as possible. Even though all of WBHEA’s activities are protected “concerted activity” according to law, and even though we can defend ourselves when needed, we know how much short-term danger will result if anyone is identified by management as a “troublemaker.” A small and trusted communications team verifies members’ identity, then keeps the names confidential while transmitting input and feedback to the group. This gives us the strength and wisdom to act as one association, while protecting the identity and job of each member as effectively as we can.

Myth: WBHEA is trying to be a union.

Fact: WBHEA is a group of individuals working together for a common goal. WBHEA members are concerned only about making positive changes at the agency. While we have discussed forming a union — a popular idea among some members — we don’t have plans to do so at this time.

Myth: Only the current CEO can provide an effective vision for WBH’s future.

Fact: Honest, compassionate, and sensible leaders are available. WBH’s employees are a remarkably intelligent, skilled, and dedicated group. With an honest and sensible CEO, we will shine! A thoughtful individual who leads without intimidation and does not retaliate against individuals who share contradictory ideas is a must! Many such leaders are found in Pacific County and surrounding areas.

Myth: Unhappy employees should resign.

Fact: We love our jobs, our clients, and our co-workers. We do some of the most challenging, demanding, and satisfying work we know. Our clients’ potential is as important as their problems. Every day — and sometimes every moment — brings new challenges in our clients’ care. Our compassion for our fellow human beings is why we love our chosen profession. Employees should not resign because of a dysfunctional CEO.

Myth: Employees are able to voice concerns to management anonymously without retaliation.

Fact: The CEO is connected to both platforms available to voice concerns or grievances. Members state they have received retaliation for sharing concerns. Feedback submitted to OfficeVibe is not anonymous as employees have stated they have been contacted by a supervisor after submitting responses. The CEO is also closely connected to, and has substantial contracts with, the principal staff member of The Compliance Consortium.

Myth: There hasn’t been retaliation.

Fact: Retaliation has occurred at all levels of the organization. Retaliation has been documented. During a “Leadership Team” meeting on June 16, 2020, the CEO berated several managers in front of their peers. After this meeting, which resulted in humiliation and outrage, our leader promised “amends.” Instead, his negative behaviors escalated, with personnel changes and meeting changes that stifle meaningful input from key managers.

Myth: WBH Human Resources reports and files are reliable and truthful.

Fact: HR statements are sometimes complete falsehoods. When one individual was terminated mid-contract, all employees were told by email this employee “chose not to renew his contract.” In fact, the contract was not expiring until mid-2021. The terminated employee asked that the record be corrected to reflect that he was not leaving voluntarily. However, the incorrect statement was not clarified or corrected.

Myth: Low staff turnover rates show that employees are happy.

Fact: Many factors influence employee turnover rates. Due to a variety of circumstances, some employees feel as though they must remain in a particular place of employment. Family obligations and financial responsibilities are but two reasons. Additionally, covid-19 has led to difficulties finding new positions.

Myth: Exit interviews measure employee satisfaction accurately.

Fact: Exit interviews, when they occur, are often conducted by people who may not be trusted by departing employees. Interviewers who are not trusted cannot gather accurate information. Interviewers whose jobs depend on the CEO may withhold negative information, even when they gather it.

Myth: Board members represent those who receive services.

Fact: Board member representation of Washington clients has been greatly reduced. Three board members are from Clatsop County. While all clients are important and should be represented fairly, very few clients come from Oregon. We have no board members from north Pacific County or from Grays Harbor County, two locations where WBH has actual offices and far more current clients.

Myth: Finances are clear to employees and stakeholders.

Fact: Our CEO’s financial messages are confusing and contradictory. Some employees have some knowledge about what WBH charges for certain services, but that’s where general knowledge ends with respect to company finances. Staff members do not know how income is utilized throughout the agency. Additionally, our CEO’s financial messages vary from hour to hour, seemingly on the basis of with whom he is talking. One moment he promises great returns from new projects, some of them costing millions of dollars. Another moment he threatens that if production doesn’t rise, he will lay off employees. Employees have no way of knowing the real truth about WBH’s finances.

Final thoughts: We submit to the Willapa Behavioral Health Board of Directors that staff concerns must be completely investigated, independent of every WBH employee, including the current CEO, COO, and chief human resources officer. The results of this investigation must be reported promptly and in full to the entire board, and not only to the current chair.

Our clients deserve the best we can offer them. WBH staff must be able to do their jobs without fear; to give input with confidence; and to work in diverse and effective teams. Because our CEO has repeatedly misused his authority, he must be removed immediately.

We are grateful for the encouragement of many community members throughout Pacific County. With proper support from our Board, we will continue to serve our clients and the community with the excellent service and pride that you — and we — deserve. Thank you!

WILLAPA BEHAVIORAL HEALTH EMPLOYEES ASSOCIATION

EDITOR’S NOTE: The names of association members are being withheld from publication in view of their concerns about possible employment retaliation. WBH management continues to be unresponsive to questions from the Chinook Observer, but placed a paid advertisement in this edition outlining their position. It does not directly address many of the questions we have posed.

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