After doctors recommended her daughter be admitted for suicidal thoughts, a Northern Virginia mother had to drive hours to find a facility that could help her.
PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. — A Northern Virginia mother reached out to WUSA9 wanting to share her story about her daughter struggling with mental health and needing help. But the mother claims that help was very hard to find in our community. She drove her daughter all the way to Norfolk.
Deb Shaw says it started early last week when she called a crisis response team to her family's Prince William County home to help her 11 year-old daughter who was in a mental health crisis and talking about suicide.
"Because of bullying," Shaw said. "And, that's something our kids face daily."
The crisis team recommended the E.R. And, when Shaw and her daughter arrived, she says the doctors agreed that her daughter should be admitted, but there were no pediatric mental health beds available.
So, they sat and waited – for three days.
"We sat in that E.R. room from Tuesday to Friday," Shaw said, with no access to mental health services. "Which is the whole reason we were there."
Shaw says she started calling other hospitals looking for help.
"I personally called over probably 30 places anywhere from Northern Pennsylvania down to North Carolina," she said. "To be turned down phone call after phone call after phone call became heartbreaking."
"They all said they had no beds," said Shaw. "And, I could do nothing to help her."
The lack of available beds for children in a mental health crisis is not a new problem in Northern Virginia or across the country.
A 2022 report by the American Psychiatric Association found demand for child and adolescent psychiatry services has increased while the supply of inpatient beds has decreased.
"It's been the hardest week of my life to be away from my daughter," said Shaw who eventually found a bed for her daughter hours away in Norfolk.
After a week of inpatient care she says her daughter is home and doing better, but she worries about other families in similar situations.
Shaw said, "Somebody needs to take a stand and provide for these kids because the parents are trying, but there's nothing available."