Arlington County Board Member Katie Kristol (D) said in a joint interview Tuesday with hospital officials making the announcement, “We’re really excited about the options that are being developed specifically to address the shortage of mental health beds.” going to bring forth in the community.” news.
The announcement comes as Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) has proposed expanding investments in the state’s strained behavioral health system, which serves as a public safety net for those in need of care.
Under-funded and overcrowded state-run psychiatric hospitals have struggled to keep up with rising demand, sometimes leaving people to be treated in court-ordered emergency rooms as they wait for a bed.
Youngkin seeks to transform VA’s struggling behavioral health system
The challenges are especially acute for Virginia youth as the need for services exceeds capacity. According to Mental Health America data, Virginia was ranked 48th in the nation in youth mental health in 2022, up from 21st last year.
Melody Dickerson said, VHC Health does not offer inpatient behavioral health services in the county. its Chief Nursing Officer. And with need rising, the health system’s current 20-bed inpatient rehab unit fills between 90 and 100 percent on any given day.
VHC Health, a private non-profit formerly known as Virginia Hospital Center, acquired 610 S. The new facility is planned to be constructed on Carlin Springs Road, the site of a former annex that housed an urgent care center and pediatric site. The hospital system previously exchanged 11.57 acres of property with the county as part of a land-swap deal to accommodate its ongoing expansion into a campus in North Arlington. About half of the assets will now return to VHC Health.
Citizens groups and county leaders had debated for years the future of the property, which is undergoing demolition. It was considered for a public bus or school bus depot, although neither of these uses ever received approval from county lawmakers.
Kristol said he hopes the rest of the site will be used for natural or green space. VHC and the county will also share the costs of building an underground parking garage to accommodate both uses on the site.
County Manager Mark Schwartz said VHC would also pick up the cost of demolishing existing buildings at the site.
VHC Health staffs 71 dedicated mental health beds in its current facilities. Once the new site opens, the hospital will use the existing space for a 14-bed geriatric mental health unit.
Behavioral health care providers in Virginia and across the country are struggling to recruit and retain staff — a problem Dickerson said is less acute at VHC Health. Health system spokeswoman Julia Ferrier said business is expected to decline by 7.3 percent from 2021 to 2022.
There were 880 patients on a psychiatric waiting list; could not keep a hospital
The new VHC health facility will accept all types of insurance including Medicaid. The goal of outpatient programs and other community-based care is to prevent people from reaching the type of crisis that could end in hospitalization or incarceration.
“When you think about the continuum of care today, VHC is really focused on that acute episode,” Dickerson said. “What this programming does for us is it’s really based on that whole continuum, from your baseline therapy to intensive therapy to a partial hospitalization program.”
Younkgin’s proposed $230 million plan would also invest in pathways designed to keep people out of institutions. Their goal is to expand mental health programs to 30 mobile crisis teams, fund intake centers, schools, and provide in-home services to 500 people waiting for Medicaid waivers.
The approach is designed to relieve pressure on overburdened public services and help fill existing gaps in care.
A 2022 study by Virginia’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission found that the state’s 40 community service boards, which provide publicly funded behavioral health services, face staffing shortages and an overwhelming demand for services . Ten percent of people in state psychiatric hospitals remained in the facility an average of 79 days after being ready for discharge because they were waiting on community service boards to complete certain tasks.
Kristol said Arlington’s Board of Community Services is working closely with VHC leaders on the details of the expansion plans.
Jenna Portnoy contributed to this report.