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State Psychiatric Hospitals Reopened During The Pandemic But Are Still Full

Catawba Hospital in Roanoke County
Virginia Dept. of Behavioral Health & Developmental Services
Catawba Hospital in Roanoke County

Virginia’s psychiatric hospitals are full, and there's no capacity for any more patients. That means that if someone needs to be admitted, they have to wait for someone else to leave before they can receive care.

Delegate Patrick Hope is a Democrat from Arlington who says something needs to be done. "This has become the perfect storm where private hospitals are filled and the state hospitals are also filled," Hope said following a meeting on the issue in Richmond Tuesday. "And so we're now in a crisis situation where while in the past we've always had a shortage of beds the problem is exacerbated by so many people seeking crisis care and needing crisis care."

Brad Haywood at Justice Forward Virginia says the current lack of capacity at Virginia's psychiatric hospitals shows misplaced priorities. "Instead of giving an eight percent raise to Virginia State Police or in Arlington County where we just gave three million dollars to police for staff recruitment and retention, why wouldn't we give three million dollars to our local crisis emergency services or to open new mental health beds?"

Lawmakers and state officials are looking at finding ways to recruit more staff for the psychiatric hospitals and pay for local therapists and counselors. But that'll take money, and that won't really be a possibility until the General Assembly meets again next year.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.