Health and Wellness

VHC Health Plans Arlington mental health facility with 112 bed


VHC Health will construct a new Arlington mental health and rehabilitation facility, hospital executives announced Tuesday. This is in response to the growing demand for inpatient care and the shortage of beds in Northern Virginia.

As planned, the facility at $80million would house five outpatient behavioral healthcare programs as well as at least 112 beds on the site near Glencarlyn, including 24 for substance abuse recovery.

“We are really enthusiastic about the options that this is going to bring forward in the community to address the shortage of mental health beds in particular,” Arlington County Board member Katie Cristol (D) said in a joint interview Tuesday with hospital officials announcing the news.

The announcement comes as Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) has proposed expanding investment in the state’s strained behavioral health system, which serves as a public safety net for people in need of care.

State-run psychiatric hospitals that are underfunded and overcrowded have struggled to meet rising demand. This sometimes leaves people waiting in emergency rooms for beds while they wait.

Youngkin wants to transform Va.’s struggling behavioral health system

Challenges have been particularly acute for Virginia’s youth as need for services has outstripped capacity. According to data from Mental Health America (Mental Health America), Virginia ranked 48th nationally in youth mental healthcare in 2022. This was a decline from 21st last year.

Melody Dickerson said that VHC Health does no offer inpatient behavioral services in the County at this time. It chief nursing officer. And with need increasing, the health system’s current 20-bed inpatient rehab unit is between 90 and 100 percent full on any given day.

VHC Health, a private non-profit formerly known under the name Virginia Hospital Center, will build the new facility at the address of 610 S. Carlin Springs Rd. The site of an annex which housed an urgent-care centre and a pediatric site, was the former location for VHC Health. In a land swap deal, the hospital system exchanged 11.57 acres of property with the county to support its expansion plans at North Arlington. VHC Health will now receive about half the property.

County leaders and civic groups had long debated the future use of this property. Now, it is being demolished. Although it was considered for a school bus depot or public bus depot, neither of these uses received approval by county legislators.

Cristol stated that she hopes the remainder of the site will be utilized for natural or green spaces. VHC will split the cost of building an underground garage for both uses.

Mark Schwartz, County Manager said VHC would also pay for the demolition of existing buildings.

VHC Health has 71 mental health beds in its existing facilities. The hospital will open the new site and use the existing space to create a 14-bed unit for geriatric mental healthcare.

Behavioral health-care providers in Virginia and across the country have been struggling to recruit and retain staff — a problem Dickerson said has been less acute at VHC Health. Julia Ferrier spokeswoman for health system and said that turnover fell by 7.3% from 2021-2022.

A psychiatry wait list had 880 patients; a hospital couldn’t keep up

The VHC Health facility will take all types of insurance, even Medicaid. Outpatient programs and other community-based services are intended to prevent patients from entering a situation that could result in hospitalization or incarceration.

“When you think about the continuum of care today, VHC is really centered on that acute episode,” Dickerson said. “What this programming does for us is it really takes on that entire continuum, from your baseline therapy to intensive therapy to a partial hospitalization program.”

Youngkin’s proposed $230 million plan also would invest in pathways designed to keep people out of institutions. Youngkin plans to employ 30 mobile crisis teams, create intake centers, expand mental healthcare programs in schools, and provide in-home care to 500 people who are waiting for Medicaid waivers.

This approach was created to relieve the pressure on already overburdened public service and fill in any care gaps.

The state’s 40 community services boards, which provide publicly funded behavioral health services, face staffing shortages and an overwhelming demand for care, a 2022 study by Virginia’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission found. Ten percent of patients in state psychiatric hospital stayed in the facility for an average 79 days, mainly because they waited for community service boards to complete certain tasks.

Cristol said Arlington’s community services board had been working closely with VHC leaders on the details of expansion plans.

Jenna Portnoy contributed this report.

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