Northam Administration Neglects Virginia’s Mentally Ill

by Kerry Dougherty

You would think that with a medical doctor occupying Virginia’s Governor’s Mansion, Virginia would have topped the nation in COVID testing and COVID-19 vaccine rollouts and would be setting the standard for care for the mentally ill.

You would be wrong on all counts.

At the risk of plowing old fields, Virginia was close to dead last in both COVID categories for months. Shoot, even former Gov. George Allen was forced to cross our Southern border — along with hordes of other Virginians — to get a vaccine in North Carolina back in February when the commonwealth’s vaccine program was a convoluted mess.

Now we learn that the Northam administration has also been an unmitigated disaster when it comes to mental health. That’s ironic, when you consider the damage the prolonged lockdowns, fruitless mask mandates and shuttered schools did to the mental health of vulnerable Virginians.

According to a scathing report in The Richmond -Times Dispatch on Sunday, Virginia’s former acting commissioner of behavioral health accused the Northam administration of deliberately neglecting the mental health system.

Dr. Jack Barber, a former interim commissioner of behavioral health, told the man who replaced him three years ago that the Northam administration had failed to heed years of warnings about overcrowding and understaffing. The current commissioner, Alison Land, immediately halted admission of civil patients — those not committed by the courts — to five state hospitals on July 9.

“For me, and no doubt others who dedicated the bulk of their careers to [the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services], the neglect of the hospitals and its consequences are distressing and demoralizing,” Barber said in a lengthy email message on Thursday to Dr. Dan Carey, secretary of health and human resources under Northam.

“Honestly, I am amazed at the lack of accountability for you and the administration for the cascade of decisions and actions that led to this point,” wrote Barber, who has spent more than 30 years in Virginia’s public mental health system, including four as interim commissioner.

The Richmond newspaper points out that this does not seem to be a partisan issue. All members of the Joint Subcommittee to Study Mental Health Services in the 21st Century have been supportive of Barber in the past and are not commenting on his accusations.

Virginia’s mental health services system is a disgrace. Lack of bed space and services mean our jails and homeless shelters are full of folks who are mentally ill, while our state institutions are not accepting new patients.

Worse, Virginia’s lone facility for children is so understaffed that they are able to only use 18 of 48 beds.

Shame on the governor and his appointees. The nation is seeing a sharp increase in the number of folks suffering from mental illnesses. This is no time to close state hospitals to new patients or limit beds for adolescents.

A medical doctor, of all people, should be alarmed by these developments.

When it comes to Northam, apparently not.

This column has been republished with permission from Kerry: Unemployed& Unedited.

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8 responses to “Northam Administration Neglects Virginia’s Mentally Ill”

  1. vicnicholls Avatar

    He neglects the handicapped also, why are you surprised? He trashes the unborn, why do you think he’ll look out for those weaker?

  2. DJRippert Avatar

    Northam is a terrible manager. He also lacks the good sense to hire competent managers to work for him in his role as executive.

    The man just can’t get out of his own way.

    In a similar vein, McAuliffe couldn’t manage what shouyld have been the relatively simple task of keeping two opposing sides apart from one another in Charlottesville. In city after city and state after state similar confrontations have occurred. The elected officials kept the opposing groups apart and, at the end, everybody went home.

    Management is probably the most important skill needed to be governor. Somebody has to effectively direct Virginia’s 106,000 state employees. McAuliffe failed and now Northam has failed as well.

  3. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    Yet another notworthy article from Little Miss Cannotbewrong.

  4. Stephen Haner Avatar
    Stephen Haner

    The VEC debacle. Slow roll out on the rental assistance. Now this. Indecision and contradiction on opening schools. Actually running the railroad day to day does not seem to be a high priority. If I were somebody with actual business experience, I might make competence a campaign theme.

    I will advise voters/taxpayers that fixing this system is going to cost mucho dinero. It has been easy to starve because the constituency is quite small.

  5. WayneS Avatar

    Mr. Northam should be held responsible for his actions, or inactions during the last three years.

    Of course, I think voters should also hold Mr. McAuliffe accountable for whatever neglect and inaction he was responsible for during his administration, immediately preceding Mr. Northam’s.

  6. RJTinRVA Avatar

    This is NOT the fault of the current administration. This is a long-standing problem going back decades which is a result of neglect of these facilities by both parties. The General Assembly hosted the first commission to study community mental health needs in 1949, and that commission, as well as about 10 similar commissions up to and including the current Deeds Commission, which has been in place since 2014, have ALL recommended the same thing, namely an expansion of community-based mental health services. Sorry, but this isn’t a Northam problem – this is an everyone problem.

    1. WayneS Avatar

      Are you saying that because other governors before him failed to solve the problem, Mr. Northam’s neglect of trhe issue may be excused?

      1. RJTinRVA Avatar

        Of course not. I’m saying he’s not the only one to blame, and 50 years of neglect can’t be solved in a couple of years.

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