Virginia hospitals pushing for mental health reform as state lags behind country

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — It’s been nearly 10 years since the Virginia Tech tragedy. Since then, there have been other highly publicized tragedies in the state involving individuals suffering from a mental illness, but new numbers show that Virginia ranks 38th in the country when it comes to treating mental health.

02f61c4263504fa59ef5ccc50f2652ff-1“Which is a horrible rank to be at for our nation,” said Kathy Harkey with the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Harkey says she believes it stems from a lack of funding. She says money has continually been cut in the past few years and has not been replaced.

“For some reason, mental health ranks in the very bottom tier when it comes to funding,” Harkey said.

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“Sometimes the patients don’t actually have access to care and so they’re going without,” explained Mary Mannix with the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association.

Mannix says it’s affecting patients and families across the state.

92085397a97944628690d4350314de87-1“Whether it be work, whether it be relationships, whether it be encounters with the law, those things can really spiral out of control,” Mannix said.

On Tuesday, the VHHA unveiled several proposals to help improve treatment in the state, including helping psychiatric patients in need of in-patient care get treatment more quickly and giving localities more flexibility to use funds currently designated for involuntarily committed patients.

“People need to understand that mental illnesses are treatable medical conditions that people get through no fault of their own,” Harkey said.

“Both in the private and the public sector working with the general assembly, we’re going to be able to do some great things,” Mannix added.

The VHHA could not say how much these proposals would cost, but experts believe this will save money in the long run by reducing the number of people in jail, in hospitals and reducing homelessness.

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