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Crisis center opens in Abingdon, but staffing shortages remain

Highlands CSB
Roxy Todd
Radio IQ
A new facility in Abingdon operated by Highlands CSB, to help people experiencing a mental health crisis, and help treat adults with substance use disorder and other behavioral health disorders. They were able to partially open their doors in July 2023, after a year struggling to recruit and retain enough staff. They still need to fill at least seven vacancies till they can open the residential facility.

For 12 months, Highlands Community Services (HCS) has been struggling to hire enough staff to open a new mental health crisis center. As of last week, they’ve finally been able to open their doors and begin helping patients, but they still need to fill at least seven vacancies to be able to open their residential facility.

Radio IQ originally reported a story about this facility in Dec. 2022.
Since then, HCS opened their 23 hour observation unit, called The Anchor, which is intended to be like an urgent care for people experiencing a mental health crisis.

“We have 23 hours or less to try to figure out what the individual needs,” said Kandace Miller, director of crisis services at HCS. “They may need a case worker or a therapist. Or they may need a medication adjustment.”

After 23 hours, Miller said patients may be referred to a psychiatric hospital, or be released back to their community.

The new crisis unit opened on July 24, and within a day, they helped their first patients.

Miller said because they’re still understaffed, full-time employees were asked to work additional shifts. “We took a leap of faith,” Miller said. “We’ve got a 3-month plan, essentially using part-time staff that already worked for us full time, asking them to work these extra shifts.”

Miller said they’re hopeful that by the end of three months, they can recruit and keep enough staff to open their residential facility, which has space for up to 12 people who need to stay overnight.

“In order to do that we have master’s and bachelor’s level positions that we desperately have to fill,” Miller said.

Some of these jobs pay by the hour, others are salaried, around $55,000. Highlands Community Services is the local agency tasked with connecting people with mental health care and treatment for substance use disorder in Washington County and Bristol, Virginia.

You can find a full listing of the positions available at HCS here.

Roxy Todd is Radio IQ's New River Valley Bureau Chief.