Feds allocate $4.1 million to Loudoun Crisis Center

Sen. Mark Warner and U.S. Rep. Jennifer Wexton met Monday with those on the front lines of mental health treatment to promote plans to build the Crisis Reception and Stabilization Center near Leesburg.

The meeting came two days after the Senate passed a budget to keep the federal government open. The spending plan includes a $4.1 million earmark to help build the $16.3 million treatment center.

The project is seen as a game changer for the early treatment of those facing mental health emergencies. The facility will be built at the County Government Services Center in Meadowview Court and will offer urgent psychiatric care, 16 reclining chairs providing up to 23 hours of treatment and 10 short-stay beds for stays of up to 14 days Patients could be visited or brought by ambulances or law enforcement.

Dr. Ramia Gupta, medical director of the county’s Department of Mental Health, Substance Abuse and Developmental Services, said the center would be better equipped to serve the needs of those in crisis than hospital emergency rooms. .

This allows us to start treatment in a timely manner, because, as we know, timely intervention is a critical factor in stabilizing any patient, he said. This mitigates stress and focuses on patient safety as well as the safety of others around them. The center will have a multidisciplinary team, so we will have professional nurses, nurses, psychiatrists, clinicians and specialists among equals.

From left, County Chair Phyllis J. Randall, Sen. Mark Warner and Rep. Jennifer Wexton listen to speakers duringa March 25 panel discussion on mental health treatment at Loudoun Inova Hospital.

At a panel discussion at Inova Loudoun Hospital, medical and mental health providers said the crisis center was a critical need in the community, but would only address part of the challenge they face in providing treatment. Other concerns included training more providers, improving insurance coverage for mental health services, expanding telehealth services, removing stigmas that deter people from seeking treatment, and decreasing access to harmful substances.

Concerns about a growing mental health crisis were heightened during the pandemic.

I know we’ve talked a lot about COVID, but the truth is, I don’t think COVID caused a mental health crisis. I think COVID revealed a mental health crisis, said County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large). I think there are a lot of other factors that play into what we’re going through now and there’s so much to address.

Part of that challenge, he said, was destigmatizing mental health and substance abuse.

If we don’t know how to talk about it at all levels and whenever mental health is just health; if we fail to realize that substance use disorder is not a character flaw, it is a disease; If we don’t start talking about these things every day, we’ll keep doing what we’re doing, he said.

I don’t know of a family, probably even pre-Covid, or household that doesn’t have mental health issues in their family, Warner said. So this is something that touches all of us in some way. COVID may have brought it to the forefront of what it is.

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Sen. Mark Warner and Rep. Jennifer Wexton are surrounded by representatives of Loudoun County’s mental health treatment community during a panel discussion March 25 at Loudoun Inova Hospital.

A major concern is the lack of ready service providers available to meet the growing need. Although Linda Long, president of Inova Behavioral Health Services, said the organization is working to create psychiatric residencies to train more providers, the shortage is being felt throughout the community.

No wonder mental health is notoriously hard to come by, Gupta said. There is a joke among psychiatry residents that it is easier to enter the gates of heaven than to enter to see someone. It’s a bit sad. This is why the Crisis Stabilization and Reception Center, from our perspective, will be a viable and alternative solution for patients undergoing treatment, which will include substance use disorders, depression, anxiety, psychosis , the full range of mental health treatments.

Dr. Anthony Crowley, a family physician in Loudoun County for nearly 40 years, put it another way. I think it’s easier to get a high-capacity, military-style weapon than a psychiatrist.

She said psychiatry is an important part of many of her patients’ health care visits. What we do we do, in the absence of a psychiatrist, sometimes we are, we have to go beyond our credentials, but it is better than nothing, he said.

He also expressed concern about the future of health care, with a wave of doctors nearing retirement and fewer in training. And, he said, those who are pursuing medical careers are starting out with massive student loan debt.

For those working with substance use patients, disastrous access to drugs was a central concern, especially for young people. Randall noted that concern would increase if state leaders move forward with legalizing recreational marijuana.

Dr. Carol Currier of the Williams Center for Wellness and Recovery in Leesburg said students who feel depressed or anxious are offered drugs like THC in the belief that it is safe.

THC is very, very powerful. It is still a gateway drug. And the teenager thinks: well, if it’s legal anywhere, it’s safe. This is not true. There are a number of teenagers who will, in fact, have a psychotic violation with their first use of marijuana. And marijuana is much stronger than people realize. If it kills dogs and cats, it might not be so good for children, Currier said.

He said drug use can quickly derail a child’s future.

We see teenagers using THC vaping as a way to cope with school stress, he said. We see children who were all as they are barely reduced to children who had a dream for the future.

When I was in school over 50 years ago, the bad kids in my high school smoked cigarettes and drank beer during their senior year. So, really, what my passion comes down to is access to care to combat disastrous substance access, Currier said.

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