Virginia Ranks Among Top States Most Prepared for Public Health Emergencies

Doctor with arms folded, holding stethescope

Virginia’s preparedness for public health emergencies ranks it among the top four in the U.S., according to the 2021 National Health Security Preparedness Index (NHSPI). The index looks at data from 64 sources across the public and private health sectors, creating an overview of health protections in place in each state; the national preparedness level is 6.8, but Virginia scored 7.4 out of ten.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has been a real-world stress test of the readiness of Virginia governmental, health care delivery, and emergency management systems to respond to a major public health threat. Throughout this time, Virginia’s hospitals, public health and emergency management agencies, and other public and private sector stakeholders have effectively navigated this unprecedented crisis while facing many pandemic-related challenges,” states a Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association (VVHHA) press release.

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Virginia Law Enforcement, Mental Health Advocates Call for American Recovery Plan Act Funding, Legislative Solutions to Mental Health Capacity Crisis

Five of Virginia’s eight state-run mental health hospitals remain closed to civil temporary detention order (TDO) admissions due to dangerously low staffing levels. That’s increasing pressure on other pieces of Virginia’s mental health care system. On Tuesday, the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police (VACP) led a press conference where speakers called for the General Assembly to use American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA) funds and long-term budget increases to help address the crisis.

“The mental health system in Virginia is clearly broken. We’ve seen the slow degradation of available resources in the state over time, and what we have also seen is the need for mental health resources has continued to grow,” VACP President Herndon Police Chief Maggie DeBoard said.

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Virginia Closes Admissions at Five State Mental Health Hospitals

Allison Land

Five of Virginia’s eight state-owned adult mental health hospitals will be closed to new admissions temporarily, due to staff shortages. On Friday, Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services Commissioner Allison Land sent a letter announcing the shortages, citing 1,547 direct patient support staff vacancies out of about 5,500 state staff, with 108 resignations occurring in the past two weeks. Contract staff are also leaving, due to “unrelenting stress, required overtime,” and a “dangerous environment.”

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Hospitals Saw 10 Percent Decrease in Inpatient Volumes in 2020, Driving Lower Revenue

Virginia hospitals saw a 10 percent decrease in inpatient volumes in 2020 and a 30 percent decrease in emergency department visits, according to the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association (VHHA). On Wednesday, VHHA staff held a virtual press conference presenting an update on hospitalization and emergency department visit trends. Hospitalization data does not show a COVID-19-lockdown baby boom, but rather a decrease in usage of hospital pregnancy services when compares to previous years. On the other hand, inpatient discharge data shows an increase in treatment of alcohol, drug use, and related mental disorders, a trend that began before COVID-19.

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Sen. Tim Kaine Discusses the $1.9T Relief Bill, His Lingering COVID Symptoms, Reflects on January 6th Capitol Breach

Senator Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) appeared on the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association (VHHA) Patients Come First podcast on Sunday. Kaine explained two upcoming financial relief packages, provided an update on Virginia’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution, and explained his Medicare-X Choice Act.

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