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More money is on the way for community service boards across Virginia

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 opened earlier this year. State officials want to add more crisis receiving centers and stabilization units across the state.

Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin is trying to figure out ways to fix a broken mental health system.

Community service boards across Virginia are receiving almost $60 million as part of a plan to add new crisis receiving centers and stabilization units across Virginia. Secretary of Health and Human Services John Littel says the receiving centers will play an important role in making sure people in mental health crisis don't get caught up in the criminal justice system.

"Custody is often transferred, which frees up law enforcement to go back to their locality," Littel says. "And it also deescalates the situation when law enforcement isn't involved. So, we're trying to build many more of those."

He calls the receiving centers chairs as opposed to beds, which are also funded as stabilization units under a plan the Youngkin administration calls “Right Help, Right Now”. Senator Creigh Deeds says it's a good plan, but he says Virginia needs to invest in employees to staff vacant positions.

"This is an important investment. I don't want to say it's not," Deeds says. "But, we've got to focus more on keeping people out of crisis and out of these emergency rooms and out of hospitals."

Earlier this year, Deeds had a budget amendment that would have invested $100 million to staff up community service boards. He ended up getting about $16 million, and he says he'll be making the same pitch for employees of community service boards when lawmakers return to Richmond next month.

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.