Virginia is spending millions to boost security at state-run mental hospitals

Eastern State Hospital in Williamsburg is one of eight state-run psychiatric hospitals that...
Eastern State Hospital in Williamsburg is one of eight state-run psychiatric hospitals that will receive additional security staff over the next two years.(DBHDS and Virginia Mercury)
Published: Jun. 30, 2022 at 6:46 AM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

Over the next two years, Virginia will spend more than $8 million to boost security at its state-run psychiatric hospitals, adding a total of 65 positions across eight facilities.

The additional funding, approved in the state’s latest two-year spending plan, comes as the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services continues to grapple with an admissions crisis.

Overcrowding is “the single largest issue currently impacting our state hospitals,” said agency spokesperson Lauren Cunningham, who also said DBHDS requested the funding to enhance safety amid ongoing reports of staff and patient injuries.

Improving conditions at the facilities, which act as a safety net for some of Virginia’s most critically ill patients, has been a legislative priority for years. But the move to add security positions without significantly boosting pay for much-needed clinical staff has been concerning to some lawmakers and mental health advocates, who say it’s another example of the state prioritizing stopgap measures over long-term solutions.

“Treatment teams, the direct service staff, they’re interacting with people every single minute of every single day,” said Anna Mendez, executive director of Partner for Mental Health, a nonprofit advocacy group that also offers referrals for services to patients in the Charlottesville area.

Adequate staffing “could probably prevent 90 percent of the issues that are now ultimately leading to needing more security,” she added. “So it feels like this is another really strong example of Virginia — instead of being willing to invest a modest amount of resources in preventing a problem — waiting until there is a crisis and then having to throw a lot more money at it.”

READ MORE ON VIRGINIAMERCURY.COM > >

NBC12 is a partner with The Virginia Mercury, an independent, nonprofit online news...
NBC12 is a partner with The Virginia Mercury, an independent, nonprofit online news organization covering state government and policy.(Virginia Mercury)

Copyright 2022 WWBT. All rights reserved.

Send it to 12 here.

Want NBC12’s top stories in your inbox each morning? Subscribe here.