City News

Mayor Stoney proposes funding mental health pilot program with partners RCHD, RBHA

On Wednesday, Mayor Stoney announced that he will recommend part of the city’s projected surplus balance fund a pilot program dedicated to addressing mental health and substance abuse disorder challenges in underserved communities.
The city will work alongside the Richmond City Health District (RCHD) and Richmond Behavioral Health Authority (RBHA) in designing and implementing this pilot.
“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 year-long pilot aims to increase the accessibility of mental and behavioral health support in communities that suffer from disparities in care and outcomes. Director of RCHD Dr. Danny Avula asserts this begins with listening.
“Our intention with this program is to listen to the community and use that input to define the scope of long-term services,” said Dr. Avula. “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?”
“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.”
RBHA treats patients referred to the organization, but the onus traditionally is on the patient to seek out services and follow through on referrals. This pilot program, by establishing a mental health presence in RCHD’s community resource centers, will increase accessibility and destigmatize seeking out support.
The mayor announced on September 16 that he will be allocating $500,000 in surplus Special Purpose funds to address health disparities in Richmond. Part of this allocation will go toward funding the pilot program.