Va. clergy, police and hospitals pitch for change in mental health treatment

Religious leaders have joined with law enforcement and hospital representatives calling on the Virginia General Assembly to do more for people in mental health crises.

The group Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement is calling on state legislators to provide $58 million in funding in the state’s 2024 budget to create crisis receiving centers.

Crisis receiving centers are 23-hour mental health facilities where people in crisis can be taken instead of a hospital emergency room or jail.

“It is the care you would want for your child, or your brother or your parent — if they were in the middle of a crisis… they will immediately receive an assessment, treatment and sometimes that’s sufficient for somebody to go home. Alternatively, they can be there while they find a bed in a 3-5 day center,” said the Rev. Kristen McBrayer senior minister of Emmaus United Church of Christ in Vienna and co-chair of VOICE.

Although such a facility is currently under development in Prince William County, there is no similar treatment facility in Northern Virginia.

“The 23-hour piece is the missing piece in that continuum of care that people don’t have access to in Northern Virginia,”  said the Rev. Kenneth Nixon, the associate organizer of VOICE.

Nixon said such centers would take pressure off jails and hospitals and get people treatment at their point of crisis in their own community.

“Nobody wants to see somebody they love zip-tied to a gurney in the hall of an emergency room with a police officer standing by them, for 6 days waiting to be seen when that just exacerbates the problems they’re already facing,” McBrayer said.

As of July 16, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available by calling or texting 988 if you need help right now. You can also call 800-273-TALK (8255). 

Dick Uliano

Whether anchoring the news inside the Glass-Enclosed Nerve Center or reporting from the scene in Maryland, Virginia or the District, Dick Uliano is always looking for the stories that really impact people's lives.

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