A local mental health practice is on the move.
Dr. Goldberg & Associates plans to open move into a larger location by Nov. 1, a business representative tells Reston Now.
The mental health and psychological services business has five locations, including one in Reston, McLean and Vienna.
It’s currently housed in a smaller office at 1800 Faraday Drive, Suite 206. The practice’s office manager says the new location — 11495 Sunset Hills Road, Suite 202 — is much larger than the current Reston location.
The practice will have seven treatment rooms. The current location only has one location. The clinic is still waiting for building permits from the county to continue with the renovation project.
More information about the practice is available online.
Photo via Dr. Goldberg & Associates/Facebook
Four years ago, Family Counseling Center of Greater Washington volunteer Cindy Han had an idea for how to improve awareness and support of mental health, particularly among Asians and other minority groups.
She shared it with Fairfax County Health Director Dr. Gloria Addo-Ayensu, who voiced her support and suggested that Han’s organization — a Vienna-based nonprofit focused on serving the local Korean community — spearhead it.
Her proposal will become a reality tomorrow (Saturday) when the first Fight Suicide Walkathon kicks off at 8:30 a.m. at Lake Fairfax Park (1400 Lake Fairfax Drive) at Shelter J. People are encouraged to preregister at the center’s website.
“Many people shy away [from] seeking the help that they need at the onset,” Han, who now chairs the center’s board, said, adding that she hopes the walkathon will help normalize getting assistance.
Suicide remains a leading cause of death in the U.S., taking the lives of 44,834 people last year, 47,511 people in 2019, and 48,344 people in 2018, according to a recent report by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers.
It was the 10th leading cause of death until last year, when it declined by 5.6 percent, as COVID-19 killed 345,323 people across the country.
The walkathon was slated to occur last summer but was postponed due to the pandemic.
Anthem HealthKeepers Plus of Virginia, a health plan that facilitates services for Medicaid recipients, is sponsoring the walkathon.
Anthem Director of Marketing Thomas Rayner says its members, who range from low-income families to pregnant women and older adults, were particularly affected by the coronavirus in nursing homes and service industries.
As hotels and restaurants faced state-mandated closures, their workers’ lives were thrown into upheaval by lost income and jobs.
“So, they were impacted not only financially, but mentally,” Rayner said.
To supplement its 24-hour NurseLine (1-800-901-0020) and other national suicide resources, HealthKeepers expanded its telehealth capabilities and also contracted with more medical providers for mental health services.
Han, whose husband retired from practicing medicine, says mental health is unlike other ailments, where medical providers can use temperature checks, an MRI, or other tools to help diagnose an individual’s condition.
Communication is a key component of addressing mental health experiences, she says, and so, residents who might not speak English fluently might not get the help they need if a provider doesn’t have any multilingual capabilities.
The Family Counseling Center of Greater Washington, which has bilingual staff, catering to Koreans and other Asian Americans, has seen a threefold increase in the number of people seeking its services during the pandemic, Han says.
The nonprofit has expanded into telehealth and provided around 1,900 health sessions and counseling services in 2020, according to its website.
Because of stigma associated with mental health, people can avoid getting help, which can only worsen situations. The American Psychiatric Association says talking about issues and connecting with others with similar experiences can help overturn harmful narratives.
“This kind of stigma is truly…the thing that I’m hoping and our organization is hoping to eradicate,” Han said. “[I] hope the American public would seek help from mental health service providers just like when they have a tummy ache or the flu.”
Editor’s note: If you or someone you know is considering harming yourself, help is available. The free, 24/7 call center network National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can provide assistance at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Photo via spurekar/Flickr
Google Announces Vaccine Mandate — Google, which employs more than 420 people in Virginia, has extended its work-from-home policy through Oct. 18, but COVID-19 vaccinations will be required for workers who return to offices. A spokesperson told Reston Now that the pandemic has not affected the tech company’s real estate plans, which include an expansion at Reston Station. [CNBC/NBC4]
E-Scooters Spotted in Reston Town Center — At least 15 rentable, battery-powered Bird scooters have been set up in Reston Town Center as part of the company’s Fairfax County deployment. Restonian deems RTC “actually a decent place for these scooters” and looks forward to using them to “effortlessly scoot from the Apple Store to the former site of the Macaroni Grill to pay our #respects some day in the not-so-distant future.” [Restonian]
Taste of Reston Will Be “Reimagined” — The Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce is turning its annual Taste of Reston food festival into a single-day event with reduced capacity that will unfold throughout Reston, rather than the usual multi-day affair at Reston Town Center. With more pressing issues weighing on patrons and restaurants due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to a cancellation last year, the chamber feels “this is the time to reimagine how we produce future Taste of Reston events.” [Patch]
Herndon Police Chief Advocates for Mental Health Resources — As president of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police & Foundation, Herndon Police Chief Maggie DeBoard joined other law enforcement and mental health professionals on Tuesday (July 27) to urge the state to allocate more resources to mental health services. She argued that police shouldn’t be tasked with handling mental health issues. [Patch]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
People using 911 in Fairfax County can now provide medical details and other information to help first responders know more about a situation before they arrive.
The county rolled out the change on July 1, allowing people to sign up ahead of time with information about a resident who has a special need or needs ranging from anything from Alzheimer’s to autism.
“It could make the difference between someone being saved and not saved,” 911 systems administrator Steve McMurrer said.
A person with an iPhone or Android phone can sign up for the free service by clicking on the Emergency Health Profile section on the county’s Department of Public Safety Communications web page. It will direct them to emergencyprofile.org, and that information is also shared with other 911 centers, McMurrer said.
In a person’s emergency profile under a section for additional medical notes or relevant information, people can list if they’re wheelchair-bound, blind, or have any other condition that first responders might need to be aware of.
A person’s emergency contact information, allergies, address, and other details can also be listed for a caller.
“Any first responder prefers to have more information,” McMurrer said.
The county’s new system relies on RapidSOS, which has been servicing the county with improved location for mobile 911 calls. It doesn’t charge emergency providers but instead device and app makers, according to a TechCrunch article.
Tony Bash, who represents Springfield District on the Fairfax Area Commission on Aging, noted it could help a person who is having a heart attack or is deaf, blind, or in a wheelchair. He also said a child with a disability might confront a police officer when they hear a siren, so the information can be vital to help first responders understand and address a situation.
Without the additional information, emergency responses can lead to injuries and deaths of people in need of help.
State officials noted that a lack of training and awareness can escalate situations for people with disabilities. State agencies for criminal justice, disabilities, and behavioral health partnered with Niagara University in 2017 to introduce additional law enforcement training.
“This is quite possibly the biggest revolutionary change in technology that we’ve witnessed in 50 years,” Eddie Reyes, director at the Prince William County Department of Public Safety Communications, said in a promotional video for RapidSOS.
Fairfax County officials have introduced elements of the service previously, but they were scattered across a variety of places:
- The Yellow Dot Program involves putting information on a card that people can take with them in their vehicles to show special medical needs.
- The File of Life, which can be placed on refrigerators, shares similar information.
- A functional needs registry with the Office of Emergency Management’s Fairfax Alerts has a database with information like if a person needs oxygen or an elevator, but the information can be outdated and was unavailable to the 911 center.
“It’s much, much better than what we have now,” Bash said of the new 911 capabilities. He described previous information on file for emergency responders as 20th-century solutions.
The county had previously looked at using Smart911, but its estimated cost in 2015 was $125,000 per year and $300,000 annually in 2019.
Power Shut Off around Reston Town Center — Dominion Energy turned off power in Reston on Saturday evening (May 8) so that first responders from Fairfax County’s police and the fire departments could address “an incident involving an individual who has climbed a power transmission line.” [Fairfax Alerts]
Hunter Woods Community Gardens Plagued by Thefts — Two community gardens at Hunter Woods Park have been repeatedly targeted by thieves, who have taken thousands of dollars in plants over the past two years, volunteers say. The thefts have persisted despite the installation of surveillance cameras, motion-sensor-triggered lights, and new fencing with a padlocked gate. [Patch]
Halley Rise Officially Signs Second Tenant — The bowling, bocce, and bar venue Pinstripes has had its sights set on the Halley Rise development for at least two years, but the move is now official. This is the second retail tenant to join the mixed-use development next to the Reston Town Center Metro station, which will be anchored by Wegmans. [H&R Retail]
South Lakes Safeway Burglarized on May 2 — “A man entered the store, damaged a secured high-end liquor cabinet and stole property. An employee confronted the man and was subsequently assaulted. The man implied he had a firearm then left with the property.” [FCPD]
Contract Awarded for Fox Mill Elementary Renovation — The Fairfax County School Board voted on Thursday (May 6) to award a nearly $20 million contract to Howard Shockey & Sons, Inc. for the Fox Mill Elementary School renovation project. On-site construction work will begin this month and is expected to be completed by spring 2023. [FCPS]
Reston Wellness Center Reopens Today — The nonprofit Reston Wellness Center (1850 Cameron Glen Drive, Suite 200) is restarting in-person services on May 10 after being closed due to the pandemic. The center provides meals, employment assistance, support groups, and other services for free to people in recovery for mental health and substance use issues. [Recovery Program Solutions of Virginia]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the county is offering mental health first aid courses on virtual platforms.
In previous years, the courses — Metal Health First Aid — were offered in-person by Fairfax-Falls Church Community Service Board‘s Wellness, Health Promotion and Prevention team. The courses offer information about the warning signs and symptoms of mental health concerns.
Below is more from the county on the initiative.
In response to COVID-19, MHFA is now virtual. With updated content and information on trauma and self-care, virtual MHFA participants will continue to learn how to identify, understand, and respond to someone struggling with a mental health concern or misusing substances. The Youth MHFA version includes updated material for adults working with school age children on issues of social media, trauma and bullying. The content is gender neutral and culturally relevant.
Marla Zometsky, Manager of CSB’s Wellness, Health Promotion & Prevention team, says, “No one is immune to mental health concerns. The MHFA training helps to change the discussion around mental health and challenges the stigma associated with mental health which often stops people from getting help.”
Previous MHFA participant Sandra shared with us, “The course greatly helped me to understand how to talk to someone who is exhibiting signs of a possible mental health crisis. Prior to taking this course, I was very uncomfortable discussing these types of issues with anyone.”
Registration and online work is required before attending the courses. Participants must complete a two-hour module and take part in a nearly seven-hour, instructor-led virtual Zoom class.
The registration fee has been waived for the Tuesday, Jan. 12 training.
Depression Photo by Ben Blennerhass/Unsplash
FCPD Mourns Loss of Director — The Fairfax County Police Department is mourning the loss of Larry Magni, director of the department’s facilities and security division. Magni, who died from COVID-19, was “an officer and a civil engineer by trade” who “cared more about the safety and wellbeing of FCPD than he did about anything else,” FCPD wrote. [FCPD]
Virtual Dog Daze in Lieu of Lake Fairfax Park — Although the water mine at the Reston-based park is closed, dogs can still take part in a virtual dog daze from Sept. 4 through 14. A donation of $10 per dog is suggested. [Fairfax County Government]
FCPS to Host Mental Health Conference — The Fairfax County Public School System is hosting its 7th annual mental health and wellness conference over a three-week period beginning Monday, Sept. 14. [FCPS]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
At the Reston Hospital Center, staff members are seeing a decline in both COVID-19 and non-COVID-related patients.
Compared to August of 2019, Reston Hospital Center Emergency Room admissions are down 20 percent and the hospital only had six COVID-19 patients currently, which is the lowest number since May, according to David Jacobs, the chairman and medical director for Reston Hospital Center’s emergency department.
But, this trend is concerning, Jacobs said — especially when it comes to non-COVID related visits.
The downward trend is partially due to people avoiding the emergency room in fear of catching COVID-19 at the facility. Additionally, people aren’t coming in close contact with others, and therefore avoiding catching other communicable diseases, Jacobs added.
Jacobs says he’s concerned over the drop in admissions since this means people might not be seeking help when they need it, leading to medical complications that otherwise would have been avoidable.
Examples of this include not being able to diagnose appendicitis in time or someone ignoring the beginning stages of a heart attack, Jacobs said.
To keep people safe when they come into the emergency room, the Reston Hospital Center has set up strict protocols, according to Jacobs. These include separating people with COVID-19 from other patients, use of personal protective equipment, regular temperature checks, the requirement of face masks for anyone who enters the building and frequent cleaning.
When considering a visit to the emergency room, Jacobs said there is little risk of catching COVID-19 at the facility since staff members stick to the health protocols set in place. It is far more dangerous to ignore symptoms and avoid seeking medical help, he said.
Jacobs said people should seek immediate medical attention when they notice warning signs such as:
- difficulty speaking
- unusual and sudden weakness in legs or arms
- chest pain
- new or worsening abdominal pain
One grievance Jacobs said he has heard repeatedly from patients is that they find it difficult to schedule a time to meet with their regular health care providers.
“I think the whole medical system is readjusting and struggling with how to safely see patients,” he said, adding that Reston Hospital Center has availability for people who need to be seen. “We are open and we have capacity.”
Practitioners are also concerned about an increase in drug and alcohol abuse.
“I think more people are out of work and have more time on their hands,” he said adding that people have also been coming in with mental health issues such as depression and suicidal thoughts that can feed off from stress associated with the pandemic.
Though the medical facility doesn’t have a detox center on-site, it does have medical professionals who can give consultations and direct people towards further help.
Some good news is on the horizon. Unlike elsewhere in the country, Jacobs said he hasn’t noticed a rise in child abuse or domestic violence cases at Reston Hospital Center.
“I’ve certainly heard and read about that but can’t say that I’ve experienced that or heard about a spike in the Reston area,” he said. “I think that’s an issue of concern that follows with a lot of these drug and alcohol and psychiatric related issues but I think to-date we haven’t seen a spike in our department.”
Going forward, Jacobs said he hopes people won’t avoid the emergency room because of fear over COVID-19, as hesitation could be deadly.
“We have five months of experience with this,” he said.
Photo courtesy Reston Hospital Center
County officials are considering a plan to no longer dispatch police officers to non-violent incidents.
At a meeting earlier this week, Lee District Supervisor Rodney Lusk and Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn pushed the county to dispatch unarmed medical, mental health and human services workers for incidents involving mental and behavioral health issues. The proposal was unanimously approved by the board for consideration.
County staff will review the local dispatch and response system in order to “enhance our Diversion First strategies by implementing systems for the deployment of trained unarmed medical, human services, and mental health professionals in instances where mental and behavioral health are the principal reason for the call.”
The new system would model Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets (CAHOOTS), an approach adopted in Eugene, Oregon since 1989. The county will determine if a similar approach is suitable for Fairfax County based on potential initial costs, long-term budget savings, overall feasibility, and the expected impact on service.
The county’s Public Safety Committee will review the county’s findings and offer a recommendation to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors by Oct. 1.
Roughly 20 percent of calls that FCPD officers respond to are primarily related to mental and behavioral health crises.
In a board matter, Lusk noted that FCPD should “endeavor to be the smartest” and not only the “safest” jurisdiction of its size in the nation.
Currently, only 40 percent of county officers are trained in crisis intervention.
Body camera footage of a white Fairfax County firing a stun gun at a Black man in Gum Springs led Lusk and Alcorn to push for the board matter. Officer Tyler Timberlake shot La Monta Gladney with a stun gun and used his knee to hold him down. Gladney was speaking incoherently prior to the use of force incident as officers persuaded him to go to a detox center.
A copy of the board matter — without the motions — is below, after the jump.
Updated 6:25 p.m. — Corrects a reference to the survey as a study and that the 825 were FCPS staff members — not all teachers.
After COVID-19 disrupted Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) earlier this spring, teachers, staff and school board members are trying to find ways to offer more mental health support.
Throughout the last several months of remote learning, the focus has been on a combination of peer-led programs, remote family check-ins with school-sponsored mental health staff and a message of “resiliency,” according to Bethany Koszelak, a mental health specialist for FCPS.
“Yes, this has been hard on a lot of people, but most youth are resilient and bounce back,” she said, adding that FCPS has been coordinating with teachers to keep an eye on students who might need help.
Mental Health Chain of Command in FCPS
In the FCPS system, regardless of age or year, students typically have access to a therapist, psychologist and social worker who can provide social-emotional support.
Counselors, which Koszelak considers to provide something called “tier one” support, provide guidance lessons to cope with emotions and social issues. If students need additional support, they will be referred to the school-sanctioned therapists and psychologists by the counselors.
As the county’s school board considers a boost in funding for social-emotional learning in the next school year, part of the funds — if approved in the next few weeks — would go toward hiring more staff and possibly bringing on additional mental health professionals full time, according to Koszelak.
Though nothing is set in stone, Karl Frisch, who presents the Providence District on the school board, said he wants to improve the infrastructure for mental health.
“The last several months have likely caused some trauma here and we need to be in a position to respond to it,” he said. We anticipate students will have an increased need.”
Rising Demand for Mental Health Support
Though Koszelak said she doesn’t have statistics to back up an increase request, a survey released by the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers reported that 55% of the 825 staff members who responded said that their students’ mental health had deteriorated since the start of distance learning.
Still, students are not the only ones at risk for mental health challenges.
More than 90% of the teachers said that their stress level has increased since the start of distance learning in March.
“Respondents chose school counselors to have the highest positive direct impact on student mental health and social-emotional needs, followed by social workers, psychologists and parent liaisons,” the survey takeaway said, backing up the school board’s idea.
Among top sources of stress for teachers, many said that they felt anxiety over technology failures, a lack of direction from FCPS leadership and difficulty adjusting to new technology.
“They need to check in with teachers and really care how we’re doing. Right now, the only message we hear is you’re failing. Not providing mental health support to elementary during this time is so WRONG! These kids need it just as much as the middle and high school kids… If anything, we will all need increased mental health support when returning to school because we are all struggling right now,” one survey respondent wrote.
FCFT sent the survey results to Tysons Reporter on May 12, before the murder of George Floid that re-sparked wide-spread outrage over systemic racism and police brutality.
It is unclear how this might add a toll to students/staff mental health but Koszelak said that there are options for students to incorporate discussions about civil rights and current events in the classroom. She added that students even begin to learn about civil rights and Martin Luther King Jr. in the second grade.
Meeting an Invisible Need
In reality, though, the need for help is likely elevated since Frish said that students and families don’t always know how to ask for help when they need it or even realize that it could help.
Around the country, statistics show that issues like domestic violence and child abuse have risen since the start of lockdown since places like child care centers, schools and offices that would typically recognize signs of abuse in-person are closed.
“Children are specifically vulnerable to abuse during COVID-19. Research shows that increased stress levels among parents [are] often a major predictor of physical abuse and neglect of children,” the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration said in an online article.
To combat this, FCPS teachers were told to look for signs of violence and abuse while interacting with their students over Zoom, Koszelak said, noting that if a student wasn’t coming to class, a school counselor would be sure to reach out to the family.
“The teachers still had live video conference calls with students,” according to Koszelak. “You can gauge when there are some concerns and the teachers know there are protocols to reach out to the clinicians.”
In addition to basic screening measures, FCPS mental health experts were also keeping a keen eye on families with a history of known problems, she added.
Additional Resources for Students and Families
FCPS offers a variety of programs to assist both students and families.
- Parent Resource Center: tips on how family support will benefit students
- KOGNITO: a walk through difficult conversations with students
- Student Voice Campaign: student sourced media on healthy coping mechanisms
- Mental Health First Aid for youth
- Our Minds Matter Virtual Club Meeting
- Parent Wellness Consultations: for middle and high school students
Some of these resources are met with concerns though: “I did Mental Health First Aid training several years ago, but it was never implemented at my school,” one teacher wrote in the FCFT survey.
“I think there needs to be widespread training in this program at each school for any and all teachers, coaches, counseling staff, and administrators who are willing and able to handle it because we need as many resources for students and staff as possible,” the teacher added.
Looking Ahead to Upcoming School Year
Though kids are on summer break, the Fairfax County School Board is considering hiring 10 more mental health care specialists and increasing funding for various social-emotional learning programs.
Board members are considering a $7 million addition to the program but it is still uncertain how the money would be distributed.
They are expected to vote on changes and plans for the upcoming school year during the upcoming June 26 meeting, according to Koszelak.
In times of uncertainty during the COVID-19 pandemic, many expectant mothers are facing unforeseen challenges.
Lack of knowledge around and educated guesswork around the coronavirus behalf of doctors can be unsettling — especially when dealing with the lives of newborn babies.
Around Reston, OBGYN offices such as the Virginia Women’s Health Associates in Reston are changing tactics to help new mothers and pregnant women stay safe by offering more online resources and flexible appointment dates for women who are experiencing flu-like symptoms.
The Virginia Women’s Health Associates are even offering online appointments through a new portal system.
For everyday care, local OBGYN offices are taking extra preventative measures to help patients respect social distancing measures and ensure the health of their patients.
Because of the lack of research doctors, such as Amy Banulis, a certified doctor out of Falls Church who published a professional article in the Northern Virginia Magazine, are recommending that expectant mothers be sure to practice self-isolation and be sure to take care of themselves not only physically but mentally as well.
“While there is currently no evidence that you are more likely than anyone else to be infected with COVID-19, you may be at higher risk of developing a severe case,” Banulis wrote. A similar statement can be found online from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
When it comes to breastfeeding and other concerns, the CDC said breast milk usually provides protection against infection and has not been shown to transmit COVID-19 in “limited studies.”
A local mom in Falls Church said that she took extra precautions leading up to her delivery date.
“I just feel the research out there is limited. I’m skeptical and don’t want to take a risk,” Nicole Sud, who recently gave birth to twins at a Virginia Hospital Center, said.
Before her delivery date, Sud said she self-isolated — only leaving the house for doctor appointments and had neighborhood friends help deliver groceries and essentials. She said that her primary care doctor didn’t recommend any additional steps for keeping healthy beyond the CDC’s guidelines for the public.
When Sud was first checked into the hospital, said she doctors gave her one surgical mask and a paper bag to put it in. Surgical gloves that would typically sit by the sink in any doctor’s office had been removed because of thefts, Sud said.
After Sud delivered the twins, she was disappointed because the couple learned the hospital nursery was closed due to COVID-19 concerns.
To ensure that the couple’s two-year-old daughter didn’t catch anything at the hospital and pass it onto the newborns, her pediatrician suggested that the young girl live with Sud’s in-laws for two weeks before returning home.
Upon discharge from the hospital, nurses simply included a COVD-19 packet among other materials typically given to mothers, Sud said.
Photo courtesy Nicole Sud
Tiki Bar Opening in Reston — The team behind Sense of Thai St. a bar and restaurant in Ashburn’s One Loudoun, is currently building the bar at RTC West. Tiki Thai bills itself as the state’s “premier tiki bar and Thai restaurant.” [The Burn]
FCPS to Offer Mental Wellness Service — “Any FCPS parent may schedule a 30-minute phone consultation with a school psychologist or school social worker, for either themselves or their middle or high school student. This consultation provides an opportunity for parents to receive guidance on how to support their child’s emotional well-being during their time away from school. Student consultations will provide support and strategies to students who may be experiencing difficulties with anxiety, mood, behavior, or peer or family interactions during this unprecedented and challenging time.” [Fairfax County Public Schools]
The Problem with Playdates — “If your kids do go outside of the home, it is important to maintain social distance of at least six feet from anyone from outside their own household. This guidance is in place to limit contact and slow the spread of COVID-19, because even though children do not appear to be at higher risk for COVID-19, and often show similar but milder symptoms than adults, they can still pass the virus on to others.” [Fairfax County Government]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
Before we tear off the remaining couple of pages on the May calendar, I want to address the important recognition of May as Mental Health Awareness Month. While Virginia is credited with having the first mental health hospital, or asylum as they were called in the 18th century, the Commonwealth has had difficulty in recent times coming to grips with the enormity of the need and the provision of funds to respond to those needs. In fact Virginia is ranked 40th in the nation in mental health care according to the results of a national study of the issue. It took a state senator’s mentally ill son attacking his father with a knife to shock the state to greater action. That father now chairs the Joint Subcommittee on Mental Health Services in the 21st Century, or the Deeds Commission, that includes Sen. Janet Howell as a member and has made critically important recommendations on which the state has made significant progress.
Special thanks go to The Commonwealth Institute for documenting recent progress and remaining opportunities in behavioral health in a recent edition of The Half Sheet. The Institute, which is a nonprofit organization focusing mostly on human service needs, used the term “behavioral health” to be more comprehensive than “mental health” to include mental health services and supports such as substance abuse treatment. The Institute recognized accomplishments this past year to include a 21 percent increase in Medicaid reimbursement to encourage more licensed mental health professionals to accept Medicaid thus increasing access to services for people with low income. Additional funding for emergency opioid kits will expand the access to and availability of Naloxone, which is used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. The General Assembly also passed and the Governor signed my bill to expand the health care providers authorized to dispense Naloxone to make it more readily available.
Increased funding was provided to increase staffing at state mental health facilities that are struggling to keep up with demand. Funding was also approved to replace the aging mental health facility Central State Hospital. In addition, monies have been made available for transportation of persons needing mental health hospitalization from having to be transported by law enforcement.
The Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services indicates that there is a need for 5,000 permanent housing units for those who need supportive housing in the state. This year’s funding along with an increase last year will provide 1,300 units of supportive housing. Obviously, there is a severe need to do more in this area with a price tag of about $47 million.
Challenges remain to be addressed in providing greater access to programs and services for those who live in rural areas and to those who have experienced the trauma of having been exposed to the immigration and refugee system. A task force is looking at ways to increase the number of mental health professionals in the state.
Our awareness of mental health needs cannot end with the month of May. More needs to be done!
A Reston man suffering from hallucinations fired several gunshots against imaginary kidnappers that he said were holding a child hostage in his town home.
The incident happened on May 7, according to court documents filed by the Fairfax County Police Department in Fairfax County Circuit Court.
A police officer arrived on the 1500 block of Poplar Grove Drive after the man told police kidnappers were holding a young child inside his townhome.
When an officer got to the scene, the man ran out of the home with a fully loaded gun, according to police. The officer handcuffed him and searched the townhome.
Police found no one in the home, but did spot two shell casings and evidence that two rounds were fired at a wall. No injuries or damages resulted.
The suspect was released on recognizance, after the man was held involuntarily “for his safety and the safety of the public” under a temporary detention order, according to the documents.
Police executed a search warrant to seize additional weapons from his home.
The suspect was arrested and charged with one misdemeanor count of the reckless handling of a firearm on Tuesday (May 21). He will be arraigned on May 28.
Reston Now does not publish the identity of suspects involved in cases with mental health implications.
The message of Dr. Nadine Burke Harris to the 900 Virginia health, education, and human services professionals and advocates at the Voices for Virginia’s Children Summit on Childhood Trauma and Resilience last week was clear: Virginia, as well as other states, needs to move forward promptly on an evidence-based early human services program to screen for adverse childhood experiences and coordinate resources to respond to the needs. It was not a hard sell to the audience. They had already given her a lengthy standing ovation before she started her speech. Most knew of her pioneering work from her book, The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity, or her Ted Talk, “How Childhood Trauma Affects Health Across a Lifetime,” that has reached over 2.8 million viewers on www.ted.com/talks. She is known for linking adverse childhood experiences and toxic stress with harmful effects to health later on in life. She founded the Center for Youth Wellness and is California’s first Surgeon General.
According to Dr. Harris, exposure to adverse childhood experiences (ACE) including abuse, neglect, domestic violence and parental mental illness and substance abuse affect 34.8 million children across socio-economic lines and affect not only brain development but can change children’s hormonal systems, immune systems and even their DNA. The results are behavioral problems, learning difficulties and physical health issues. In adults, exposure to ACEs dramatically increases the likelihood of 7 out of 10 leading adult causes of death including heart disease and cancer.
For Dr. Harris early detection is key. Screening for ACEs in children is possible and with appropriate support services the existing and future harm to children’s brains and bodies caused by toxic stress can be alleviated. As Dr. Harris told the group in Richmond, “routine screening for ACEs at pediatric well-child visits should be as common as checking for hearing loss or exposure to lead paint. With early detection children can be treated and saved from a lifetime of health issues.”
Virginia currently has 19 communities throughout the state that have programs referred to as “trauma-informed community networks” that are at various stages of development of programs and services utilizing the findings of research on trauma and its impact on public health. There is little doubt that Dr. Harris’s visit will increase interest among practitioners and policy makers as to a more widespread use of the results of studies on ACEs. An effective program of ACE detection and intervention could lead to reduced health care costs, better performance of students in school, and a better quality of life for those involved. In the long-term, costs would be low or minimal as better diagnoses of conditions should lead to more effective treatments and a reduction in costs.
I look forward to working with Voices for Virginia’s Children–celebrating its 25th anniversary at the Summit–and its advocates to determine the most effective ways to make all programs trauma informed that will serve the entire Commonwealth. Such an approach will reduce the lingering harm that can come from undetected adverse childhood experiences.