Virginia Grapples with Psychiatric Hospital Crisis, Urgent Call for Human Rights-Based Reforms


A new report from the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) shows that Virginia’s state psychiatric hospitals are in a very bad situation. There are a lot of open positions, a lot of cases, and a lot of staff turnover at the facilities. This is mostly because of low pay and safety issues. With over 85% of their beds filled, these hospitals are required to take in people with temporary detention orders (TDOs). This includes people with neurocognitive or neurodevelopmental problems who might not benefit from long-term psychiatric hospitalization.

The study also talks about the disturbing practice of police officers leaving seriously ill patients at these overcrowded facilities, which forces more patients to be moved and uses up even more resources. The Commonwealth Center for Children and Adolescents (CCCA) is pointed out as having major operational problems.

The JLARC suggests that it might need to be closed and other places found for the kids. In spite of these problems, the study suggests that private hospitals might be able to help. It also suggests that laws be changed to clarify the requirements for TDOs and civil commitments.

The problem with Virginia’s mental health care system is not just a local one; it’s a sign of how mental health care is seen as a basic human right around the world. In line with the work of the World Health Organization and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, there is a call to stop forcing people to do things and encourage community-based, stigma-free help for people with mental health conditions.

The crisis at the Virginia Psychiatric Hospital shows how important it is for society and the economy to include human rights concepts in mental health care policy. An approach to mental health that is built on human rights (HRBA) has been shown to improve clinical outcomes and create economic benefits. However, there are problems with putting HRBAs into action, such as the need for good study and fair evaluations.

Still, as the state thinks about what the report says, the chance to take a more moral, legal, and financially sound stance is at the top of its mind. This change could not only help with the current situation but it could also be used as a model for future changes to mental health care that put people with mental health problems’ rights and dignity first.

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