Advocacy works! As a result of the efforts of VOICE, and others, the Prince William County Board of Supervisors is moving along in their plans to evaluate, design and build Critical Receiving Units (formerly called Crisis Stabilization Units) in the county! The unit would be a place where citizens and law enforcement could bring people experiencing mental health or substance abuse crises instead of to jails or emergency rooms.
Why it’s important
In the last few months, Virginia closed five of the commonwealth’s eight public mental health facilities. Facilities were closed due to dramatic staffing shortages and staff safety concerns. As a result, people in the county in need of urgent mental health care are forced to spend hours or even days in emergency rooms, waiting for staff to identify an open psychiatric treatment spot. The police who were called for intervention are required to stay with the person until they are admitted. In severe cases, those in crises are taken to the jail. The criminal justice system should not be the only resort for people with addiction and mental health challenges. The emergency room should also not be the first choice.
What’s the plan?
The planned center in Prince William County would include 16 beds and 16 observation recliners for adults and 8 beds and 8 observation recliners for youth. The plan would cost approximately $6.4 million in start-up costs, with operating costs about $17.3 million yearly. An estimated 61% of the operating costs would come from private insurance and Medicaid and Medicare.
In August Governor Northam submitted a budget to the legislative branch that would provide state funds and federal grants towards the project. While the budget submission fell short of what we had hoped for, it was substantial – and the Prince William County officials believed that funds could be found to supplement received funds and move ahead with the project.
VOICE has argued that such a facility would shorten the length of time it takes for someone experiencing a mental health crisis to get treatment – and Prince William officials agree. If successful, this could provide a model for counties throughout Virginia.
In order to be successful, this issue will continue to need citizen engagement to ensure efforts to provide adequate mental health services are seen as a priority at the local, state and federal level.
“It is in keeping with their dignity as persons that human being should take an active part in government.”
Pacem in Terris (“Peace on Earth”), Pope John XXIII, 1963, #73.
Previous VOICE Updates on this topic:
VOICE Update – Critical Receiving Units (Jul 22, 2021)
VOICE – Did you know? Crisis Stabilization Unit (Jun 25, 2021)