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.
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.”
Virginia had another record year for fatal drug overdoses in 2020. In 2019, Virginia had a record 1,627 fatal drug overdoses, but in 2020 that number spiked by 41.2 percent to 2,297, fueled by fentanyl overdoses, according to a fourth-quarter report from the Virginia Department of Health (VDH).
“The pandemic exacerbated drug deaths and last I checked, something like 40-plus states reported big increases in overdose deaths since the pandemic began,” VDH Statewide Forensic Epidemiologist Kathrin Hobron told The Virginia Star.