Staffing Shortage: Virginia Temporarily Closes Several Mental Hospitals

By By Chris Miller, Assistant Editor
July 22, 2021

Virginia is temporarily shutting down new admissions at five of its eight mental healthcare facilities due to short staffing. This strategy is attempting to reduce the number of patients by way of attrition. The facilities will not be discharging anyone. Mental healthcare professionals in Virginia say they are in a major crisis right now with not enough resources to help patients who are in need of treatment, according to a WHSV3 News article. Hospital admissions are continuously rising while staff numbers are depleting. It is reported that 63 patients and employees have gotten hurt at Virginia’s mental hospitals due to the staffing shortages. The state’s one psychiatric facility for youths is now using only 18 of its 48 beds as it cannot effectively care for more patients.

Virginia’s mental health care problem is not a new occurrence for the state. Its behavioral health institutions have struggled with handling people in psychiatric crises since the “bed of last resort” law legislated in 2014. This law did not let people be released from emergency custody if they were a threat to themselves or others. This along with an admission increase of almost 400 percent since 2013 are a couple reasons for this staff shortage crisis.

This shortage issue is not just contained within the mental health domain. The Virginia Hospital and Healthcare association represents 26 private health organizations in the state and a representative said there are staffing shortages in every industry across the board

According to the Richmond Free Press, Gov, Northam is looking to put forward federal American Rescue Plan funding toward this staffing shortage issue. He wants to boost salaries, hire more critical workers and make sure everyone is safe. The Virginia General Assembly meets August 2 to discuss strategies to resolve this problem. Over 100 workers have resigned from Virginia state mental health hospitals in the last several weeks, many of them pointing to unsafe work circumstances and long hours as their reasons.


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