Virginia Beach City Council to mull over money to recruit, retain mental health care workers

Virginia Beach

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia Beach Councilman Michael Berlucchi is proposing a $200,000 grant to the Hampton Roads Workforce Council to address recruitment and retention of mental health care providers in the City of Virginia Beach.

“Virtually every family is impacted by mental illness,” Berlucchi said.

It’s no secret that mental illness is a concern for many people, but finding workers to help treat those in need right now is the bigger problem.

“We are experiencing a mental health crisis nationally and the experiences are being felt here in Virginia Beach,” Berlucchi added.

There is a shortage of mental health workers which equates to fewer opportunities for those suffering.

“At the end of the day the bottom line is that people who need help are having trouble accessing the help they need,” he said.

Patients find themselves waiting for appointments or waiting to be admitted into a facility. It’s not only taxing on the system, but also on staff members.

“It is unprecedented,” said Virginia Beach Psychiatric Center CEO Kurt Hooks. “Health care is not necessarily new to staffing challenges, but this is at an emergent level.”

Hooks says his staff is doing all it can but could use more help.

“We have been really going to great lengths to do whatever we can to try to get our bed capacity up to meet the community demands,” Hooks added.

The $200,000 would go to nonprofit and private mental health care providers.

“You talk to any provider, and you’ll find a shortage of workers in the field and so what we want to do is promote retention and recruit new people into the system, so we improve access,” Berlucchi said.

The city would use money given by the federal government. Berlucchi says it is the first step.

“This program is not going to solve our mental health concerns but make very substantial improvements in the system,” Berlucchi added.

Council will meet Tuesday night to discuss and vote on the $200,000.

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