The COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll on health care workers and has led many of those workers to leave the field.

Glen Liebman, CEO of the Mental Health Association of New York State, said COVID-19 has “amplified” the workforce drought “tenfold.”

Liebman said the staffing shortage is an untenable situation with some programs seeing staffing vacancy rates of 30-40%.

“Without the workforce, we don’t have a mental health system,” Liebman told Capital Tonight.

Included in Gov. Kathy Hochul's budget proposal was a one-time retention bonus of up to $3,000 for health care workers and a cost of living adjustment increase of 5.4%. Liebman said that those proposals are part of a budget that is “one of the best budgets we’ve seen in a long time, in regards to mental health.”

Liebman wants to see those incentives turned into recurring over a long period of time.

The state budget is due by April 1 and the state Legislature will hold its last budget hearings on economic development and taxes on Wednesday, Feb. 16.

This summer, a new hotline will be set up in the state for people facing a mental health or substance use crisis. The hotline, 988, will work like 911 and connect you with a trained professional to help you. Liebman said the hotline, along with crisis stabilization centers, are part of a system to help New Yorkers through a crisis.