Virginia’s state psychiatric facilities face a crisis of overcrowding exacerbated by COVID-19, but a new infusion of funds aims to ease the pressure. The Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services has increased funding to expand permanent supportive housing programs, awarding Rappahannock Area Community Services Board $201,529 to assist individuals leaving state hospitals.
Those hospitals have been operating at or above capacity in the past few months, and individuals in crisis across the commonwealth sometimes wait days for a bed to open up. At the same time, hundreds of patients cleared for discharge have been unable to leave the hospitals due to a lack of services in the community.
On March 31, 219 Virginians were waiting 14 or more days to discharge from state hospitals. In an effort to reduce the number of people waiting for community services, DBHDS increased statewide funding for supportive housing by $17 million over two years.
RACSB will use the new money to provide transitional housing for people leaving state hospitals, dedicating space in its mental health residential programs for psychiatric discharges. The agency operates four mental health residential programs which offer varying levels of supervision to help individuals with mental illness develop skills to live more independently. Of the 29 beds in these programs, six will be reserved for individuals leaving hospitals.
“It’s frustrating when someone has to stay in a facility when they are clinically ready for discharge, due to lack of appropriate housing and supports,” RACSB Executive Director Jane McDonald Yaun said. “This money will enable more people to get the level of care they need while easing the overcrowding at hospitals.”
The community services board has operated its mental health residential program for decades. In the past few years, funding for the program has decreased significantly and the agency has subsidized the costs. The award of $201,529 for fiscal years 2022 and 2023 will ease the financial burden placed on RACSB.
“We know that individuals do best in their community, and residential programs offer a valuable service,” said Joe Wickens, director of community support services. “With this money, we can continue our commitment to helping individuals live to their fullest potential.”