February 2017 Mental Health Update

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This year our justice ministry, united with 16 other diverse congregations under RISC, is working to make sure our neighbors have access to mental healthcare. Our mental health research committee has met with 16 experts in the mental health field and made crucial findings—

Many in our congregations shared stories about the difficulties of finding quality mental healthcare.

We have been discovering incredibly long waiting lists for youth and adult mental health and employment placement. Currently, waiting lists in Richmond are normal for everything except emergency services. Depending on a patient’s health insurance coverage, waiting times can last from one week to six months! Part of this is due to the fact that our community and country have a severe shortage of mental health professionals. We also know that those in our community without insurance are deterred from seeking treatment due to the cost.

Several stories in our house meetings pointed to the needs of children facing trauma and emotional disturbances.

Traumatized children in dire need of proper care—this is a given for our community. Experts in our research meetings have estimated that 90—95% of the children receiving mental health treatment in our community have had a traumatic experience, including abuse, neglect, the death of a parent, or bullying. While many safety net organizations are trying to provide the proper care to children and training to their caregivers, the Richmond Behavioral Health Authority does not provide trauma-informed care or any outpatient treatment for children—increasing the stress on the private sector.

For those in our congregations dealing with a mental health problem, finding and keeping their jobs is a top priority and a great challenge.

In a meeting with the Dept. of Aging and Rehabilitation Services, we learned that the waiting list for employment support and placement in our region stretches to 1,100 people—and no one has been placed since last November. We also learned that the retention rates for those who are placed in jobs is very low in the Richmond region—due to lower wages and increased rates of substance abuse and homelessness as well as lack of follow-through by the employment specialists.

In the coming month, our mental health committee will be sharpening our focus to determine where we can make the greatest difference for the Richmond region. We look forward to continuing conversations with community organizations and behavioral healthcare providers to understand these serious problems around mental health.


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