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SCSB updates Mecklenburg supes on mental health services / January 10, 2018

Beth Engelhorn, executive director of the Southside Community Services Board (SCSB), began the new year by updating Mecklenburg County supervisors on the activities of her organization during 2017. The update took place during the regular meeting of the Board of Supervisors on Monday, Jan. 8.

The SCSB is a public entity that delivers community-based services to children, adults and families with mental health, substance abuse, and intellectual disability needs. The coverage area of the Southside Community Services Board consists of Mecklenburg, Brunswick and Halifax counties.

By law, the SCSB is required to provide an annual report of activities during the preceding year to county boards of supervisors.

Engelhorn began her remarks Monday in Boydton with a warning to supervisors that the SCSB’s proposed budget for FY2019 includes a request for an $8,500 increase in matching funds from the county. Engelhorn attributed the need for added funding to pressure from the state to handle an increased load of patients who are being discharged from state hospitals.

She also told supervisors that she heard their concerns the last time she appeared before them, and is working with her board and the Virginia Department of Social Services to address gaps in service.

“One of the biggest issues we face is the length of time it takes to get people into services, approximately 48 days.” Engelhorn acknowledged that time frame is “too long because by then either crisis is over, or the people no longer want help.”

The SCSB has hired a consultant to help determine how the organization can provide same-day access to services for people in crisis — either due to drugs or mental health issues, or both. She said this was a big culture change for her organization and anticipated it would take between five and six months to implement.

They are also looking at ways to hold people who use their services more accountable for their behavior.

“People who ‘no-show’ for services two times don’t get back on calendar and people who no-show for doctor’s appointments don’t get meds. We are trying to get to those who want help. Right now, our calendar is filled with people who no show,” said Engelhart.

After meeting with Sandra Gregory, director of Mecklenburg County Social Services, Engelhorn said she walked away with “a good picture of the opiate problem here. So based on that, we established walk-in hours specifically for those referred by the court and DSS [Department of Social Services].”

The walk-in hours are Wednesday mornings from 9 a.m.-noon. One downside to these hours, identified by Gregory, is that most of the court cases referred to SCSB get heard on Wednesday and Thursday. People who leave court looking to enter a detox program might have to wait for a week before they can be seen by a counselor at SCSB.

Engelhorn said she’s also made arrangements with VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital in South Hill to treat drug users. She is now able to send clients to the hospital for suboxone, which is used in the treatment of opiate addiction.

When asked by County Administrator Wayne Carter if the other two counties that make up the local service area — Brunswick and Halifax — fully fund the agency, Engelhorn replied, “No.” Brunswick does, she said, but during her tenure with the board, Engelhorn said, Halifax County has never paid its full obligation. Engelhorn said the failure of Halifax does not impact services provided to residents of Mecklenburg or Brunswick counties.

In other business, supervisors held its annual reorganization session with the start of the new year, with Glenn Barbour re-elected as board chair and Gregg Gordon granted another term as vice chair.

Dan Tanner said supervisors need to begin thinking about what they will do with the existing school buildings once the county’s new high school-middle school complex is constructed. He said he did not want the old school buildings to sit empty and deteriorate.

In response, County Administrator Wayne Carter shared that the Mecklenburg County YMCA and others have expressed an interest in using the gymnasiums at Park View and Bluestone High Schools, but added that none of the middle school buildings is worth saving.

Supervisors reappointed Irving Watkins to the Board of Building Code Appeals, and Carter announced that paving work on Ridge Road has been completed, and came in under budget.

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