Gov. Ralph Northam issues executive order to address crowding of state psychiatric hospitals

Health
Ralph Northam

FILE – In this June 4, 2020, file photo Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam speaks during a news conference in Richmond, Va. Virginia has rolled out a smartphone app to automatically notify people if they might have been exposed to the coronavirus. It’s the first U.S. state to use new pandemic technology created by Apple and Google. The Covidwise app was available on the tech giants’ app stores Wednesday, Aug. 5, ahead of an expected announcement from Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam.(AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Governor Ralph Northam issued Executive Order 70 on Aug. 18 to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 at Virginia’s state-operated psychiatric hospitals. State hospitals will no longer be required to admit emergency custody patients when they are operating at 100% capacity.

According to a press release from the Governor’s Office, before the pandemic began the Commonwealth’s psychiatric hospital system were on average 95% full. Recently many hospitals have seen an increase in admissions and sometimes have operated above their capacity.

The Code of Virginia requires facilities to admit individuals for a temporary detention for a mental health crisis even if no inpatient bed can be identified. Executive Order 70 will change this. Now law enforcement will be encouraged to ensure a bed is available before taking a new admission to a state hospital. Patients will have to be screened for COVID-19 and other acute medical conditions before being transferred to a state hospital.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has created significant challenges for Virginia’s psychiatric hospitals and the individuals in crisis who rely on their services,” said Northam. “This executive order will help ensure that our Commonwealth can continue to provide high quality behavioral health care and treatment, while protecting the health and safety of patients and staff and mitigating the spread of the virus within these congregate settings.”

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