Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney proposes mental health pilot program, funded by surplus balance

Richmond

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney (Photo: 8News)

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney announced he will be recommending part of the city’s $500,000 in surplus Special Purpose funds go towards funding a pilot program dedicated to addressing mental health disorders and substance abuse in underserved communities.

The city says they plan to operate this pilot program in partnership with the Richmond City Health District and Richmond Behavioral Health Authority.

“Richmond residents who live with mental and behavioral health challenges are experiencing compounded harms during the pandemic,” said Mayor Stoney. “But this program should not be limited to short-term relief. We need a permanent culture shift to destigmatize seeking help.”

The planned pilot program would last a year. The Mayor’s Office says it will increase the accessibility of mental and behavioral health support in communities that suffer from disparities in care and outcomes.

RCHD Director Dr. Danny Avula says part of the program will be listening to the community and using input to guide their plans for a long-term approach. Avula seeks to answer questions such as, “Does the community need a psychiatrist who can write prescriptions, or would a licensed clinical social worker who can provide ongoing therapy do the most good?”

The program is also designed to eliminate or lessen stigmas around mental health.

“A very real stigma still exists around seeking mental and behavioral health treatment,” said Director of RBHA Dr. John Lindstrom. “With this pilot program, we have the opportunity to bring quality, reliable treatment to communities that have historically been underserved in this arena.”

Traditionally RBHA treats patients referred to the organization and patients who seek out services on their own. The pilot program plans to establish a mental health presence in RCHD’s community resource centers to increase accessibility and destigmatize seeking out support.

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