In October, Virginia Beach promised bonuses to 200 who began mental health care. How much was spent?

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — In October, the Virginia Beach City Council approved a $200,000 grant to provide $1,000 in awards to the first 200 to join the ranks of mental health providers to help address the contribute to the ongoing personnel crisis.

How many new hires have taken advantage of the bonuses in town so far?

The answer: around 20.

For that reason, Michael Woodhead, an adviser to the Hampton Roads Workforce Council, is hoping to learn that the program is still ongoing and that if you accept a position with a nonprofit and private mental health provider, you’re eligible.

There is a shortage of mental health professionals, resulting in fewer opportunities for those suffering.

In November, the Department of Human Services Pathways Center at Birdneck Circle closed due to staffing shortages, which Woodhead says only exacerbates the problem.

Woodhead said he suspects more than 20 people have been hired in recent months. He said that when he cold called various practices, many were unaware the program existed.

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“As you can imagine, it’s looking a gift horse in the mouth. People say, ‘Wait a minute. Who are you and what is that?’ and ‘I’ve never heard of this program, is it legit? free money? Who gets free money?’” Woodhead said. “We want to re-establish the urgency of practitioners and business owners and the mental health and behavioral health services industry that this is a real program and that we want to put $200,000 in endowment funds into hiring businesses that will help you grow your business .”

Woodhead helped run a similar program for the tourism industry. However, In this case, he had a marketing budget.

While Woodhead believes a more holistic approach is needed over the long term, the $1,000 bonuses will help in other ways.

“Last but not least, this gives us the opportunity to connect with available workers and let them know there are career opportunities in wonderful, dynamic industries that they may not be familiar with,” said Woodhead.

He asks everyone who is interested in the program to get in touch the works council of Hampton Roads.

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