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Letter: Correcting Error on Mental Health Services

Fairfax County serving more people now.

Correction

Editor's Note: “Mental Health Crisis,” a story appearing in the Feb. 12-18 Connection Newspapers, and the related editorial, “Addressing Mental Health,” posit an incorrect premise based on an error in interpretation of data. The Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board (CSB) served more individuals in FY2013 than in previous fiscal years; there was not a double-digit decrease in services provided.

To the Editor:

A Feb. 11 editorial by Mary Kimm, referencing reporting by Michael Pope, makes an incorrect assertion that our services to people with mental illness in Fairfax County have been “dramatically cut back.”

In fact, the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board (CSB) served more individuals in FY2013 than in previous fiscal years, thanks to the generous and consistent support of Fairfax County government and the taxpayers of Fairfax County and the Cities of Fairfax and Falls Church. The bulk of our budget comes from local, rather than state, dollars. This enables our CSB to provide services that many other Virginia jurisdictions are not able to have, including a mobile crisis unit, crisis stabilization, and many other services. To suggest that our local government has dramatically cut back mental health services is simply not true and needs to be corrected for the record.

Here are the numbers – (total number of individuals served by the CSB, which includes those with mental illness and/or substance use disorders, intellectual disability, and infants and toddlers with developmental delays):

FY 2013: 20,988

FY 2012: 20,446

FY 2011: 20,058

What appeared to the reporter as a dramatic drop in the number of individuals served was the result of a change in the way we define the categories of individuals served. The county’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) he referenced does not include an entire category (that we are now required by the state to count separately) of individuals who receive “Services Outside of Program Area,” including emergency services, assessment and monitoring. Prior to FY2012, those individuals were included in either “mental health services,” “alcohol and drug services,” or “intellectual disability services.” The county’s CAFR has retained the old categories but has not added this new one. Therefore, there is an appearance that services have been reduced, when in reality we are just more narrowly defining who is categorized as receiving a service defined by a particular disability. The number of individuals served who are not counted in the CAFR is large: in FY2013, there were 13,249 individuals who received CSB services that were not categorized in those three disability area categories.

If you actually compare apples to apples, our numbers have remained consistent, and have even increased slightly, despite the economic difficulties of recent years. For this, we can thank our county leaders and our community who recognize, as you do, the importance of supporting these critical CSB services.

Thank you very much for your support.

George Braunstein

Executive Director

Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board