Decreasing time to mental health services goal of new state program

Chesapeake Integrated Behavioral Healthcare

CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) – Getting help to people with mental illnesses is not always easy.  That’s why the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services is rolling out a new plan to reduce the time it takes for people to get treatment.

In Hampton Roads, that program just began in Chesapeake.  The idea is that no matter the health problem, people get treatment when they need it.

Beau Kirkwood has turned pain into passion.  “We lost my brother to bipolar disorder and also schizoaffective disorder when he was about 32,” Kirkwood said.  He’s now the executive director of The CHAS Foundation, which aims to help people and their families find appropriate treatment for mental health problems.

“We really went through nearly every barrier of treatment that an individual or family could go through,” Kirkwood said.

Those barriers are what people at Chesapeake Integrated Behavioral Healthcare (CIBH) are working to remove.

“People who have behavioral health care needs need to be seen whenever motivation is high and whenever they want services,” said Joe Scislowicz, executive director of the CIBH.

This month, the CIBH launched same day access, with funding from the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services.

Scislowicz said, “Especially for acute behavioral health difficulties or substance abuse problems,  when they seek services, you should be there for them.”

People can now walk-in, get an assessment, and then begin treatment — avoiding wait times and cancelled appointments.  “Typically if you delay a person’s appointment by even 48 hours, you’re going to lose 50 percent of the people,” said Scislowicz.

Scislowicz says it’s been steady since they launched the program January 3.  The CIBH is currently the only Community Service Board in Hampton Roads that has this funding, but that’s supposed to change in the next few years, giving all CSB’s this same day program.

It’s a change Kirkwood says is welcome, especially for people like his brother.

“When someone needs care and they’re willing to receive that treatment, it gets so frustrating when you can’t get that treatment in a timely manner,” said Kirkwood. “It’s absolutely needed.”

In Norfolk, officials say they started a pilot program for same day access in fall 2017.  That program is currently open Monday – Thursday from 8 a.m. – 12 p.m. at 3755 E. Virginia Beach Boulevard.  People can call their main number at 757-823-1600.  Anyone with a crisis can call the 24-hour crisis line at 757-664-7690.

Norfolk also offers The Governor’s Access Plan (GAP) which can help adults with mental illness who have no insurance and very low or no income.