Virginia’s mental health system is in acute crisis. The state ranks 39th in the country for providing mental health services. The system is especially poor in Hampton Roads and Southwest Virginia.
In February, 2012, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) of Virginia’s Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (BHDS) released a new report detailing the outcomes of adults with serious mental illness who were not able to obtain psychiatric services in a hospital. The report summarizes the results of a three-month joint study conducted by the OIG and BHDS to better understand the problem known as “streeting,” in which adults meeting a statutory criteria for a temporary detention order (TDO) are not admitted to a psychiatric hospital for further evaluation and treatment.
The report was driven by the alarming number of failed TDO’s (streeted) in Hampton Roads, due to the downsizing of Eastern State Hospital and the abrupt removal of 85 psychiatric beds in 2010. The 2012 OIG/BDHS study found that 72 people statewide were not able to get the level of psychiatric services they required because no hospital, private or public, would admit them for care. Hampton Roads had the second highest number of unexecuted TDO’s, 22 “streetings,” in the state and the highest number of TDO’s, 77 cases, that had to wait beyond the 6-hour limit required by law for treatment.
Although the General Assembly and Governor have mandated emergency services to meet the needs of citizens in mental health crisis, the system is continually underfunded and unable to provide for Hampton Roads and the Commonwealth’s highly vulnerable mentally ill, who are a risk to themselves and others without necessary treatment. Statewide, the number of inpatient hospital beds has declined while the population has increased by 13% in the last decade.