PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Two privately-run group homes for the severely mentally ill in Rhode Island are closing at least temporarily and the residents are being moved to another facility in response to a severe staffing shortage, officials say.

Twenty-one residents from the Singleton House in Burrillville and the Chicoine House in Cumberland were being moved Wednesday to a temporary home in a closed state property in Smithfield, The Providence Journal reported.

“There is a public health emergency and a staffing shortage, and even staffing agencies cannot meet all the staffing needs,” said Randal Edgar, a spokesperson for the state Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Development Disabilities and Hospitals, the agency that oversees and pays for the group homes. “In this case, the provider is moving clients from two smaller facilities into this larger facility because it will allow the provider to pool staff.″

Mary Dwyer, senior vice president of the Community Care Alliance, which runs and staffs the group homes, said the organization has not been able to fill all its open positions.

Dwyer and Benedict F. Lessing Jr., the president and CEO of the Community Care Alliance, say one problem is the low starting pay for many staffers at the homes.

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