AUSTIN (KXAN) — Organizations that offer mental health services in the Austin area are battling staff shortages which can impact care for those who need it.

One organization that’s facing these issues is the Austin Child Guidance Center. Moriah Looten, the bilingual program manager with the center, joined KXAN News at 4 p.m. to discuss an urgent plea from the center to raise $500,000 to continue its services.

Looten explained the center offers mental health services to children and their families regardless of their ability to pay, so 90% of their revenue comes from donations. Like many organizations, Looten said the pandemic set them back.

“We’ve been unable to fundraise as we did in the past,” she said. “And our recent annual fundraiser was not as successful as we had hoped it would be.”

The pandemic not only affected finances, Looten said, but it also took a toll on the center’s ability to hire and maintain staff. She added increased case loads can lead to employee burnout, which affects the hiring and retention of workers.

“It’s kind of difficult to pinpoint exactly what’s happening with this challenge, and why we’re having this challenge, but what it does is it increases case loads and also it could also be partly because people are needing more flexibility in their lives,” Looten said.

Because of these challenges with staffing and finances, Looten said the Austin Child Guidance Center had to reduce the number of clients it serves.

Looten encourages folks to donate to local mental health organizations like the Austin Child Guidance Center, so these services can continue on.

“No donation is small. Everything helps,” she said.

She said one thing agencies can do better is to communicate with each other to learn what is causing problems with recruiting, so solutions can be developed.