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Study Identifies Challenges in Virginia’s Psychiatric Hospitals

As lawmakers work to improve Virginia’s mental health system, they have more evidence of what needs to change.

This week the state’s watchdog agency released a report on Virginia’s psychiatric hospitals that included major concerns and recommendations for the General Assembly.

The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) acknowledged that state lawmakers and the Youngkin administration have been working to address deficiencies in the mental health system. And during two meetings with legislators this week, the agency’s director praised the employees of Virginia’s psychiatric hospitals.

“It was apparent to JLARC staff they are some of the most dedicated public servants in the Commonwealth and they are to be commended for their hard work and their dedication in what is often a very challenging work environment,” Hal Greer told lawmakers.

But he also described numerous challenges in the state’s nine psychiatric hospitals. The report found that all of the facilities were operating at higher occupancy levels than recommended to maintain a safe environment.

A continuing challenge, the study found, is recruiting and retaining staff members who are willing to work in an unpredictable environment. And the study found that private hospitals could be doing more to care for individuals with temporary detention orders.

“Our staff was able to conduct a full analysis of the data on the number of beds available and staff at these facilities, and have concluded that most of these providers have unused staff capacity and could be accepting considerable more civil patients and thus doing much more to relieve the census pressures on the state hospitals.” Greer said.

JLARC said the state should consider implementing policies that would encourage or require private hospitals to accept temporary detention orders if they have the ability to do it safely.

Thursday afternoon, Gov. Glenn Youngkin proposed $500 million in new funding for the full range of mental health services. That figure includes more than $50 million to stabilize the workforce, including salary increases for employees in the state hospitals.

Source: WDBJ 7