Chiara Canzi provides the alarming news in the current C-Ville Weekly that the university intends to eliminate half of its psychiatric beds from its total of forty, getting rid of eight next months and another twelve early next year. The PR director for the UVA Medical Center says that it won’t be a problem because “not all beds…are used,” but the folks I talked to who work for the facility tell me that’s absolutely not true. They’re basically the psychiatric equivalent of an emergency room, and one of very few available right now—folks are routinely brought down from upstate, where (a member of the General Assembly recently told me) there are generally no beds available. The state has a significant shortage of beds, and it’s becoming a problem. Obviously, we’re not talking about literal beds here, but rather the capacity to deal with an individual represented by it.
The result of this will not be good. This will leave people without care, instead winding up in jail (without the care that they need), on the streets, or with family who don’t know how to help them. Note that this coincides with the General Assembly passing a slew of new mental health laws in response to the Virginia Tech shooting, many of which will require more beds to deal with the more stringent standards. They’re stiffening the laws, but not providing the funding to actually follow through. That’s basically par for the course: legislators want to brag about how they’re tough on crime and cut taxes, but as we see here, the two are often in opposition.