RICHMOND, Va. -- Virginia's behavioral health commissioner told lawmakers Thursday about the spending she said is needed to make facilities safer after admissions at five state hospitals was halted amid a staffing shortage, including $75 million for salaries and pay increases.
“Our safety net is no longer safe,” Behavioral Health and Developmental Services Commissioner Alison Land told members of a subcommittee created in 2014 to study and improve mental health services. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports Land said she wants to minimize the time that admissions are closed.
The department will use $25 million in emergency funding to bring out-of-state contract staff to hospitals where admissions are currently halted and for employee bonuses that Land hopes will be effective Aug. 1.
Next month, the General Assembly convenes to determine how to spend $4.3 billion in federal stimulus funds. A spokeswoman for Gov. Ralph Northam has said the governor would propose putting funds toward hiring and boosting salaries and "ensuring the well-being of patients and staff.”
Del. Patrick Hope said he was surprised when admissions were halted and asked if Land had the governor’s approval.
“This was not an approved decision,” she said. “If any facility that we licensed operated like this, we would close them.”