Private health facilities worry about increased demand and stagnant resources for mental health care

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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) – Mental health professionals in Virginia say we are currently in a major crisis with not enough resources to help patients in need of treatment.

The outcry comes after the state announced it temporarily stop accepting patients in five of its mental health facilities due to understaffing.

“It was a perfect horrible storm,” said Dr. Robert Trestman.

Trestman is the chair of psychiatry and behavioral medicine at the Carilion Clinic.

At his facility, they are now treating twice as many people as before the pandemic. This is a trend across the Commonwealth, with increasing demand, but resources appear to be stagnating.

“During the pandemic, all of the weaknesses in the system were exacerbated,” Trestman said.

There is a backlog of people in the emergency department often in mental health crisis, limited capacity in the inpatient units of these private hospitals and very few places with availability and resources to meet the needs of patients, according to Trestman.

“When a significant part of the system, the state’s public mental hospitals fail, then everything is in danger and our patients suffer,” he said.

The conversation comes after the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services announced it would temporarily stop accepting patients at five of its facilities due to a staff shortage.

“You know the challenges that exist here have already existed and they will continue to exist,” said Julian Walker, vice president of communications for Virginia Hospital and the Healthcare Association.

The Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association represents 26 private healthcare systems statewide. Walker said there were staffing shortages in all areas in all sectors, including mental health professionals.

“Just as the state says it has staffing issues and needs more resources from states to scale up operations, so do private hospitals,” Walker said. . “We need resources to help and provide assistance in the face of the challenge facing the state. “

The association has offered to open 58 new beds in one of its establishments, if they can get enough staff. This request would cost nearly $ 8.5 million to make it a reality.

The Carilion Clinic says they are doing what they can to fix the problem, but they themselves can only add a lot.

“I am frustrated, anxious and scared of patient outcomes because we know what we need to do, we are trained to do it, but we don’t have the capacity to provide the care people need,” a declared Trestman.

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