Same-day mental health assessments now available statewide

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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) For people who need mental health services, same-day assessments can make a big difference in getting the help they need.

And this week, Governor Northam announced Community Services Boards across the state are now providing that service.

"I think it is a big deal, and I am very happy to see it," said Tamara Starnes, Chief Clinical Officer of Blue Ridge Behavioral Healthcare.

The Community Services Board in the Roanoke Valley began offering same day access to mental health assessments in May 2016.

Since then, Starnes said the agency has seen a dramatic increase in the number of people seeking initial assessments, proof she says, that the policy is working, and getting people into the system when they're ready..

"It's good for client care," Starnes said. "It's good to catch people when they need it. If you think about folks that get in a crisis or end up in the hospital, sometimes if you can help them a little bit ahead of the game that's really the ideal, what you want to do."

Senator Creigh Deeds says expanding same-day access to mental health assessments was a key goal of legislation the General Assembly passed in 2017. But he cautions, its just part of a plan that will require more time and money to accomplish.

"I'm excited that it's happening," Deeds said in a telephone interview, "but I can tell you we still have a lot more to do.We want to expand services so that people that are in trouble in any part of Virginia can have access to the services they need."

More funding is needed to make sure there are enough mental health service providers to meet the need.

Anyone in the Roanoke Valley who believes they might need mental health services can visit the walk-in clinic at the Burrell Center without an appointment, Monday through Friday between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.