Mental health service providers see massive increase in patient demand

Posted at 12:10 AM, Apr 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-28 00:27:04-04

CHESTERFIELD, Va. -- On Monday, Gov. Ralph Northam announced a $2 million grant to aid those experiencing mental and behavioral health crises in the wake of COVID-19.

“Some Virginians are feeling isolation, even depression,” Northam says. “Some are using alcohol or other substitutes as a crutch.”

On Monday, the governor announced a $2 million dollar grant from the Federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The money will go through Virginia’s 40 Community Service Boards and the Virginia Hospital and Health Care Association to help healthcare workers also in need of behavioral health treatment.

The CDC said that people most stressed during this time are health care workers, teens and children and those with mental health conditions or problems with substance abuse.

Shatara Price, with Chesterfield-based mental health service provicer Simple Intervention, said the pandemic crisis is especially difficult for those with underlying mental health issues.

“For someone who deals with anxiety or depression or even paranoia, that is heightened times 10,” Price said.

The private company Simple Intervention is a community mental health agency that works with Community Service Boards to help connect adults and children with needed mental and behavioral health care services. Most of the agency’s clients are low income and rely on Medicaid services.

The agency usually connects with about 100 clients a month, but since the pandemic started, the need has nearly doubled.

Price says several people don’t have access to their normal providers during this time.

“Nine times out of ten they don’t have access to their resources, so usually they are going to day programs, they are going to groups, they’re going out in the community where they’re able to use that support system,” Price said. “So when they’re by themselves they are up to their own vices and someone who is early on in treatment usually struggles more.”

Simple Intervention recently purchased 30 new tablets in order to enable licensed therapists to provide services via telehealth. Along with mental health services, the agency is also able to connect clients to food banks and housing resources.

While more tablets and wireless devices are needed, Price says it’s a good start to addressing the growing mental and behavioral health care crisis that will likely grow worse in the coming weeks.

“We’re able to let them know that their progress isn’t going to stop just because of what’s going on with the pandemic,” Price says.

Along with assisting Community Service Boards and hospitals, Governor Northam says the grant money will also be used to provide medication assisted treatment for drug addicts, along with recovery services and recovery housing.