Loudoun Supervisors Approve New Positions for Overwhelmed Mental Health Dept.

County supervisors voted Monday night to fund six new positions for the Department of Mental Health, Substance Abuse, and Developmental Services, and tabled deliberations on six more.

Three of the positions will go to the adult detention center. They will provide screening, assessment, and supervision of inmates with serious mental illnesses or substance abuse disorders, including monitoring people found not guilty by reason of insanity. This doubles the number of MHASDS staff at the detention center.

MHASDS Department Director Margaret Graham said the recommended ratio of mental health professionals to inmates is one for every 50 to 75; Loudoun’s detention center currently stands at one for 259.

Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office Division Commander Major Mike Manning told the Board of Supervisors he supports the increase.

“It’s a critical need, in my opinion,” Manning said. “I would say upwards of around 40 percent have some serious mental health needs, and we’re dealing with that on a daily basis.”

Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large), who works in a similar position in another detention center, said Loudoun is “vastly understaffed,” especially compared with neighboring counties.

“When you have people who are criminally insane, they are very, very dangerous people,” Randall said. “You’re actually putting employees in danger when you leave jails that understaffed, because the people in the jails are dangerous people.”

The board also approved three new positions for the Community Liaison Education and Access Recovery (CLEAR) program. These positions provide initial screenings, assessments, and evaluations—meaning, in part, they answer the phone when someone calls seeking mental health help. Gorham said call volume has increased from 3,300 in FY2013 to 4,200 in FY2015.

MHSADS Division Director Michelle Petruzzello said less than 10 percent of those calls are answered. The rest go to voicemail.

Graham emphasized that this is not the same line as the emergency hotline, which is always answered.

The board also may add as many as six positions supporting in-home residential services, although supervisors initially moved to fund only two. Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn) moved to table the decision until MHSADS figures out how much of that cost will be absorbed by Medicaid, which can pay for up to 40 percent of those services.

Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles) also suggested that the finance committee, which he chairs, take a look at the capacity problem in the county’s group homes in the county’s Capital Improvement Program. Currently, there is a 15-year waiting list.


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