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VOICE Update – Critical Receiving Units

Why its Important “In the emergency room. Handcuffed to a gurney. In a hospital gown. For several days straight. That’s where an increasing number of Prince William County residents suffering from severe mental health crises have found themselves as Virginia’s overburdened mental hospitals face limited bed space or have ceased taking new admissions altogether. Often, people wait days in the hospital before an open bed can be found at a mental health facility. And for those who have been involuntarily admitted by local police, that can mean being handcuffed to a gurney in the ER with a police officer by their side – a situation advocates say can exacerbate or escalate an already acute mental health issue.” (Prince Williams Times)

Previously, we had posted about Critical Stabilization Units (CSUs). This post is an update to that core issue. As the advocacy moves into the budgeting process, the name has changed to “Critical Receiving Units” but the scope and mission remain the same.

Did you know….  Last year, 855 mental health patients in the region under temporary detention orders — nearly half from Prince William — were housed elsewhere in the state, according to Tuesday’s presentation. In some cases, a police officer responding to such a call can take as long as eight hours to transport individuals to a facility outside Northern Virginia and process them, officials said. In cases where a hospital bed is not immediately available, it can take as long as 72 hours to receive treatment, with patients who pose risks to themselves and others waiting in handcuffs the whole time, county officials said.

Going Deeper VOICE has asked that Gov. Northam and the General Assembly dedicate $47 million in American Rescue Plan Act dollars during the August special session to fund the creation of 10 new regional Crisis Receiving Centers (CRCs) in localities that demonstrate high utilization for crisis services, including the newly-proposed, much-needed CRC in Prince William County. The Prince William facility would require $6.4 million in start-up funds and $17.3 million for ongoing, annual operational expenses, according to a county staff report. The center would have 16 adult and eight youth inpatient beds and an equal number of “recliners” for short-term psychiatric observation.

The recent forced closure of five of Virginia’s psychiatric hospitals has driven home the urgent need to find alternatives to the current system of care. As Virginia’s current system is already operating at capacity, there is the risk of exacerbating current challenges patients face in accessing timely care. Crisis Receiving Centers have been used in several states to great success as they faced the same situation Prince William faces. In Arizona, where this model was pioneered, 60 – 70% of patients treated in CRCs are safely discharged to continue care in the community within 24 hours, instead of an inpatient psychiatric stay or jail booking.

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