IMPACT sharpens focus on mental health services for youth

April 7, 2014. The Daily Progress.

Armed with the results of a survey of public school students in Charlottesville and Albemarle County, Sheila Herlihy on Monday made her case for bolstering child psychiatric care before several hundred people at the Church of the Incarnation.

“We know of 376 students in our local schools who have seriously considered suicide,’ Herlihy said, “and kids in crisis wait an average of three months to by seen by a psychiatrist at Region Ten [Community Services Board].”

Representatives of the 26 groups comprising the nonprofit Interfaith Movement Promoting Action by Congregating Together vowed action on the issue, culled from community meetings held the month before Virginia’s fragmented mental health system was thrust into the national spotlight with the case of Austin C. “Gus” Deeds.

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THE DAILY PROGRESS/RYAN M. KELLY

Fred Schneider raises his arm in celebration as his congregation from Hinton Avenue United Methodist Church is welcomed during the IMPACT rally for mental health and unemployment initiatives on Monday at the Church of the Incarnation.

The challenge comes as Region Ten, one of 40 community services boards across the state that form the backbone of the Virginia’s public mental health system, turns to localities facing for help retaining school counseling positions that would otherwise disappear when federal grant money dries up in June.

The nine social workers serving the county and city high schools and middle schools through the federal Safe Schools Healthy Students program worked with 910 students last school year and provided about 6,000 hours of mental health services, according to an annual report.

“We’re scrambling to secure funding for five of those positions,” said Neta Davis, senior director of Child and Family Services for Region Ten. “It’s been an invaluable service for the kids and the point is to prevent disasters and crises.”

Davis said she has requested that Albemarle County and Charlottesville fund two positions each at a cost of about $60,000 per position. Region Ten plans to fund the fifth.

More needs to be done to cut down the wait list for child psychiatry, Davis said, but she estimated the average for an initial consultation at four to six weeks.

“There is definitely a wait here and there is also a wait on the private side,” she said. “We would absolutely love to have a full-time child psychiatrist, but that would cost … more than $100,000.”

The wait for counseling and other mental services is not as long, she said. Davis said the organization provided mental health services to 1,135 children in Albemarle and Charlottesville in the last fiscal year, independent of the work done in schools.

Psychiatric services for children through Region Ten are available 15 hours per week through a contract with the University of Virginia’s Child and Family Psychiatry Department and Horizons Behavioral Health. The service is provided for nine hours each week in Charlottesville, four hours in Louisa County and two hours in Nelson County, Davis said.

“There is a national shortage of psychiatrists, especially in specialty areas such as child psychiatry,” said Eric Swensen, spokesman for UVa Medical Center.

IMPACT organizers say they have tackled complex problems before. Last year, the group took on homelessness and helped organize a coalition of nonprofit associations to share information and secure grant funding.

“Because of our working in separate silos, our community was missing out on hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant funding to address homelessness,” said Al Horton, pastor of First United Methodist Church in Charlottesville.

The group will hear an update on the progress of this initiative at IMPACT’s signature event May 5 at John Paul Jones Arena. The goal in all efforts, big and small, is to promote social justice, said Bob Bayer, liaison to the group for Westminster Presbyterian Church.

“Justice is a state where everybody in the community is related to with respect and with equity,” Bayer said. “Not equality, equity.”

$950,000 leveraged for homelessness service providers

Charlottesville, VA- IMPACT catalyzed a restructuring of the community’s approach to homelessness at their 2013 Nehemiah Action. Charlottesville city manager and Albemarle County Executives agreed to convene a Roundtable to Reduce Homelessness, which would enable the entire community to better share information and leverage funding so that we might see an actual reduction in the number of homeless individuals and families in our area. In the time since this commitment was made, the roundtable has leveraged an additional $950,000 for service providers that otherwise would have been left on the table. We know of 16 families who have been prevented from becoming homeless as a direct result of the way this roundtable has changed our community.

Reducing recidivism through psychiatric re-entry program in Charlottesville

Charlottesville, VA – IMPACT’s 2011 Nehemiah Action brought 1,500 people to seek commitments from City Councilors and County Supervisors to fund the Healthy Transitions Program. This program is a psychiatric re-entry program that ensures the continuity of care for ex-offenders with mental illness. Rather than one-time help or a long waiting period, it provides immediate and on-going medication and therapy. Thanks to this program, ex-offenders only have to wait two weeks to get care, as opposed to the previous 11-month wait. Healthy Transitions is now hailed as a state-wide best practice, and has reduced recidivism among participants to 10% as compared to the state 25% average. Before this program, ex-offenders were waiting up to 11 months to get care; now, the wait time is only two weeks.

Increased access to pre-kindergarten programming in Charlottesville

Charlottesville, VA – IMPACT made steady progress on education issues at their March 2010 Nehemiah Action. The Charlottesville City School Board and Albemarle County Bright Stars officials agreed to increase access to public Pre-Kindergarten (Pre-K) education for local low-income three- and four-year-olds by ensuring that 85-95% of children enrolled in public Pre-K are low-income. Pre-K refers to formal educational programming that has proven to prepare children to better succeed in kindergarten when properly implemented. In addition, the City of Charlottesville raised the total number of three-year-old classes from three to five, beginning in the 2010-2011 school year. Albemarle County maintained funding for all existing Pre-K programs and added one four-year-old classroom in spite of potential budget cuts.

Access to language services for 25,000

Charlottesville, VA – In 2010, the Charlottesville City and Albemarle County Police Departments and the Albemarle Charlottesville Regional Jail committed to providing equal access to language services for an estimated 25,000 community members with limited English proficiency. By November 2010, Chief Longo reported that the City of Charlottesville Police Department had implemented their Limited English Proficiency policy the previous February and they had trained leaders on the policy. They are now tracking language access use and the policy has been received positively by both officers and the public. Additionally, Colonel Matthews, Superintendent of the Charlottesville Albemarle Regional Jail, reported that the Regional Jail has updated their management systems to begin tracking language access issues.