EDITORIAL — We need a strong, effective Crossroads organization

Published 8:14 pm Wednesday, May 12, 2021

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The board of directors for Crossroads Community Services Board did the right thing in voting to make a change for a new executive director.

Since Dr. Susan Baker’s arrival in April of 2015, the organization has been wrought with drama after drama with employees being terminated, lawsuits, deaths of patients under Crossroads’ care and housing issues. The result has been a lack of focus, perhaps not by the organization but certainly by those in the community on the primary mission and focus of the organization – to treat those affected by mental illness.

Treating mental illness is a serious issue in every community. According to Resources to Recover, 3.9% of Virginia ‘s 8.3 million people live with serious mental conditions such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depression. That’s almost 324,000 people who need the help of organizations like Crossroads. Multiply that number by the moms, dads, spouses and children of those affected by mental illness, and the importance of the organization quickly becomes apparent.

Add to this large number of people in the commonwealth who are affected directly or indirectly by mental illness the fact that the state is having a difficult time filling position in mental health fields and a crisis situation begins to emerge. An April 2021 report by the Virginia Mercury said most mental health facilities are operating at 65% to 70% of the typical operating staff. That can certainly be seen at the local Crossroads facility which is currently advertising to fill multiple positions under eight different job titles.

As frustrating as it is that it was a county finally exercising the power of the purse rather than the problems of those needing treatment that caused this change at the top, the change is welcomed nonetheless.

Mental health issues in Virginia and how the system can be improved received much-needed attention after State Senator Creigh Deeds was stabbed 13 times by his 24-year-old son in 2013. Deeds was attacked at his home in Millsboro that November Tuesday morning by his son, Gus, who took his own life shortly after the attack.

Deeds’ son was sent home after an employee at the Rockbridge Area Community Services Board failed to find a bed in a mental hospital for him.

The incident filled Deeds with impetus to fix the broken system. Since then, several reforms have been passed, but Deeds admits more work needs to be done.

The tragedy in Deeds’ family was national news, the subject of an emotional “60 Minutes” piece and helped bring the issue of mental health into the light.

Most of these cases never make the news. They play out privately, silently. It’s not something you typically post on Facebook or even bring up for the church prayer list because there is still a stigma that remains concerning mental health. If Aunt Bessie falls and breaks a hip, we bring food, say prayers and offer any type of support we can. If Aunt Bessie has a bout with depression or a manic attack, we have no idea how to respond.

The tragedy in Deeds’ family reemphasized the fact that mental health issues are not a poor person’s problem or a problem for the uneducated. These issues affect every segment of our society. Mental health conditions affect the rich and the poor, the well off and well-known as well as the anonymous blue collar laborer.

These are serious issues, and we need a strong, capable organization to help individuals and families cope with the effects and get effective treatment.

Crossroads is an integral part of our community’s success. We need a strong organization that can effectively offer treatments and help to the mentally ill. It is critical that the Crossroads board make a wise hiring decision and choose the right person to lead the organization in this difficult environment.

The lives of many in our community hang in the balance.

(The views in this editorial are of The Charlotte Gazette editorial staff. This editorial was written by Editor Roger Watson. He can be reached at Editor@TheCharlotteGazette.com or (434) 808-0622.)