ROANOKE. Va – Police chiefs across Virginia are calling on lawmakers to address what they are calling a statewide mental health crisis.
It’s been two weeks since five state institutions had to stop admitting patients because of a lack of staffing.
“We don’t have sufficient community-based mental health in our state hospitals are overrun and our private hospitals don’t even have enough beds,” Executive Director of Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police Dana Schrad said.
Each year, police officers have to transport hundreds of people struggling with their mental health.
But now five of those places cannot admit new patients, including Catawba hospital in Roanoke County.
“The solution is to build out community-based services that are networked across the state, in particular, that serve areas that right now are almost not served at all, particularly southwest Virginia,” Schrad said.
During a press conference Tuesday held by the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police, representatives from cities across the state asked the General Assembly to use money from the American Rescue Plan to hire more staff.
“There’s got to be a long-term commitment to building out community-based mental health services is economically smarter, it treats people as they should be treated,” Schrad said.
But advocates know this work won’t be done overnight. In the meantime, short-term solutions may be struggling patients’ only hope.
“We need to do right by the people that need these kinds of services and people who are in mental health crisis are not the kind of people who are having an opportunity to advocate for themselves,” Schrad said.
The summer session of the General Assembly is set to begin on Monday.