Behavioral health services to expand in county, public schools

Schools superintendent to BOS: ‘We need to find space’

Rappahannock County public schools Superintendent Dr. Shannon Grimsley has told the county’s Board of Supervisors of new opportunities for providing behavioral health services to students, their families, and other members of the community.

The Rappahannock school system currently collaborates with the National Counseling Group, which provides therapeutic day treatment services through teleconferencing with psychiatrists (called tele-psych). But recently the NCG has offered to create a satellite office in Rappahannock County and provide services two days a week starting in 2019.

“This is huge for us,” Grimsley told the BOS. “I was begging for one day a month for even tele-psychs, I’ll take anything, but for them to come to the table with two days a week is a huge service to our community.”

In a later interview, the superintendent explained that providing behavioral health services has been a challenge for many years. “Not just as a school system but as a community,” Grimsley said, “because in more rural areas, of course, you have very very limited access to immediate services. A big chunk of [our budget] is transporting people to service providers outside of the county, to everywhere else.”

Carol Johnson, RCPS’s assistant superintendent, added that the therapeutic day treatment services offered by the NCG “are available for students who are Medicaid eligible who may be having emotional or behavioral issues.”

But having a two-day a week satellite office in Rappahannock through the NCG would mean, said Grimsley, that “the service would be available not just to school families or school students, but everybody and it would not just rely on Medicaid eligibility.”

Anyone in the county with insurance could take advantage of therapeutic outpatient services, she said, “which is incredible for our county. That’s why we’re so excited.”

The drawback, though, is finding space.

“It has to be some office space that can hold up to 10 people in a waiting area,” Grimsley said. “And of course a private room for consultation and counseling services. We’re hopeful that the county will work with us and try to find a confidential space to be able to allow the NCG to come in and offer this amazing service to our county because we’ve never had an opportunity like that.”

The school system is not the only local entity requiring more space to provide community services.

Jim LaGraffe, executive director of the Rappahannock-Rapidan Community Services Board, delivered his organization‘s annual report at this month’s BOS meeting. LaGraffe told supervisors that with Medicaid expansion and the growing need for services, placing staff in localities is challenging because of the lack of proper space.

RRCS is the regional provider of behavioral health, intellectual disability, substance use disorder, and aging services on behalf of local government in Culpeper, Fauquier, Madison, Orange, and Rappahannock counties.

“We are working to get staff in every one of the counties,” LaGraffe said. “Actually having local staff here I think will make it much easier for social services to coordinate with the school district.”

But, he said, “Where are we going to put them? We need resources for them to do what they need to do, such as connectivity and logistical types of things.”

In describing her request for a supplemental appropriation, Jennifer Parker, head of the local Department of Social Services, also told the BOS of her growing space needs created by Medicaid expansion and increased activity in her department. She said she is anticipating 300 additional cases due to the Medicaid expansion.

And on the child welfare side, she said, “We’ve been closely monitoring the increase in the foster care caseload. Since January we’ve seen an increase from 12 children to 27 children. We do not see a decrease in the child welfare workload in the future…

“And there will be a huge focus on developing our foster homes within our communities [which will mean] hold[ing] specialized trainings … to reduce trauma inflicted on our kids by being taken out of their homes, reducing trauma by keeping them within their communities and schools and surroundings that they know.”

Parker said her department will have to add two additional staff members.

“We’ve come to a crossroads where minimal staff can no longer meet [the needs of our programs],” said Parker. “There are no available commercial spaces large enough to meet the needs of the staff of my department. As a result we need to make use of the areas in our building” by converting the conference area into two cubicles and creating two workstations in the downstairs hallway.”

About Patty Hardee 277 Articles
Writer, consultant, actor, director, recovering stand-up comic, Patty covers the county’s courts and other topics of interest for Rappahannock News. She lives with her grape-growing husband Bill Freitag in Flint Hill.