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Official: Virginia mental hospitals dangerously full

A state official said Virginia mental hospitals are struggling with dangerously high numbers of patients.
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Mental hospitals filling up in Virginia

RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia mental hospitals are struggling with dangerously high numbers of patients, a state official told lawmakers this week. 

The census numbers are prompting the facilities to delay admissions and are straining law enforcement's ability to maintain custody of people waiting for treatment, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported. 

The state's eight public mental hospitals for adults are at 96% of their capacity, Behavioral Health Commissioner Alison Land told a committee of legislators studying mental health services on Tuesday. Crowding is worst at Central State Hospital near Petersburg, which is 99% full.

Land told the committee the pandemic has also triggered an exodus of employees, with hospitals operating at 60% to 75% of full staffing.

"The picture is bleaker, not better," she said. 

Virginia sheriffs are reporting being stretched thin after responding to psychiatric emergencies that require them to hold people and transport them for treatment.

"I've had deputy sheriffs tied up for days at a time," John Jones, Executive Director of the Virginia Sheriffs' Association, told the newspaper in an interview on Tuesday. "We're at a crisis point."