Virginia seeks funding for 'overwhelmed' mental health hospitals

Virginia's overfilled and understaffed state mental health hospitals are seeking federal funding support, The Washington Post reports.

The state Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, which runs Virginia's psychiatric hospitals, said the chronic problems have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Alison Land, commissioner of the department, told lawmakers during a subcommittee meeting this month that state mental health hospitals are operating at 98 percent capacity, on average, according to the Post. She said a hospital in Falls Church had 135 patients and only 134 beds.

During her presentation to the panel studying mental health services, Ms. Land also addressed staffing.  

According to the Post, she told the subcommittee that the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services had more than 1,000 job vacancies in March 2020, including nurses, internists and psychiatrists. That number had increased to about 1,300 by early this June, "leaving facilities overwhelmed," she said.

To address the issue, mental health hospitals are seeking funding as part of the roughly $4 billion Virginia is receiving from the federal pandemic relief package.

According to the report, lawmakers and policy experts are seeking changes that will provide more inpatient beds and develop community services to reduce the number of people coming to mental health hospitals.

The state has nine inpatient psychiatric hospitals, totaling 2,124 beds.

Read the full article here.

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