At a meeting last week, Virginia Secretary of Health and Human Resources John Littel made an eye-opening remark about the state’s understaffed and overstressed mental health facilities.
“We’re losing a lot of people to Chick-fil-A,” Littel told the General Assembly’s Joint Commission on Health Care. “And hopefully the budget will help with that.”
The staffing issues in Virginia’s mental-health facilities are no secret, but Littel’s comment stood out as a stark anecdote about the dire working conditions for some state employees helping with the crucial societal task of caring for the mentally ill.
In an interview Tuesday, Littel, an appointee of Gov. Glenn Youngkin and former executive with the Magellan health care company, said broader worker shortages have enabled the fast-food industry and others to offer more appealing jobs to state mental-health workers who have had to show up to relatively low-paying, difficult jobs “all through the pandemic.”
“Part of it is some of those people do get paid less than you might get in fast food or Target or Walmart or something. And it’s not as stressful,” Littel said, adding that the state’s mental health workers are “doing lifesaving work every day.”
He said he was mostly referring to workers who may be in housekeeping or direct support staff roles and might make around $13 to $18 an hour. Recent Virginia job postings for Chick-fil-A, which advertises all workers get Sundays off when its restaurants are closed, offered similar pay, with some locations offering starting pay of $15 an hour.
According to the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Services, average pay for entry-level direct care jobs currently ranges from a little under $12 an hour to about $17 an hour, which works out to roughly $24,700 to $35,500 per year.
Broader worker shortages, Littel said, have prompted the fast-food industry to get more aggressive on raising pay and sign-on bonuses. He said he couldn’t venture a guess at the number of state employees who have left for fast-food jobs.
“I’m just sort of referencing the anecdotes I hear from people,” he said, specifying he was making an “illustrative point” that wasn’t meant as a shot at Chick-fil-A.
Littel said he’s hopeful the upcoming state budget compromise will include significant new investments that will allow for better pay and conditions for the mental health workforce.
“The people that work in the system are all heroes,” he said. “For people to choose that as a specialty and commit to that, that’s really important. They’re not what’s wrong with the system.”
Shootings on July 3rd and Early July 4th Result in a Death and Six Injuries
Two separate unrelated incidents occurred. One at City Dogs in the Fan and another near Cyber Café on Broad Street.
West Main Street Death Investigation
Sunday, July 3, at approximately 10:26 p.m., officers were called to the 1300 block of West Main Street for the report of random gunfire. RPD officers responded and located an adult male with an apparent gunshot wound. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
The Medical Examiner will determine the cause and manner of death.
Anyone with information about this death investigation is asked to contact
Major Crimes Detective A. Coates at (804)-646-0729 or Crime Stoppers at
(804) 780-1000. The P3 Tips Crime Stoppers app for smartphones also may be used. All Crime Stoppers reporting methods are anonymous.
This RVA/Reddit thread has some unconfirmed details and first-hand reports on the City Dogs shooting.
Update July 5th:
Arrest Made, Victim Identified in West Main Street Homicide and Aggravated Assaults
The Richmond Police Department has charged the suspect in yesterday’s shootings on West Main Street. Derrick Adjei, 24, of Alexandria, Virginia, was taken into custody by Virginia State Police last night at approximately 11:01 p.m. after the vehicle Adjei had been operating was involved in a single vehicle collision on northbound I-95.
RPD detectives, investigating the West Main Street shooting, have charged Adjei with malicious wounding. Other charges are pending. A booking photo of Adjei is not yet available.
Detectives have identified the victim of the shooting as Kyle Stoner, 36, of Richmond. Sunday at approximately 10:28 p.m., officers were called to the 1300 block of West Main Street for the report of a shooting. RPD officers responded and located an adult male, Stoner, on a patio of a business, down and unresponsive suffering from an apparent gunshot wound. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
The Medical Examiner will determine the cause and manner of death.
An adult female and an adult male were also injured during the incident and have received treatment for injuries that were not considered life threatening.
Anyone with further information about this incident is asked to contact Major Crimes Detective A. Coates at (804)-646-0729 or Crime Stoppers at (804) 780-1000. The P3 Tips Crime Stoppers app for smartphones also may be used. All Crime Stoppers reporting methods are anonymous.
West Broad Street Shooting
At approximately 3:39 a.m., Richmond Police officers responded to the report of random gunfire in the 00 block of West Broad Street. Six people were reported shot near the Cyber Café, an after-hours club including four adult males and two adult females.
Of the six who sustained gunshot wounds, two are considered life-threatening and four non-life threatening. One man was transported by ambulance, others were self-transported to the hospital for treatment.
There is no public threat at this time.
Anyone with information about this shooting investigation is asked to call Detective Reyes at (804) 646-3874 or contact Crime Stoppers at (804) 780-1000. The P3 Tips Crime Stoppers app for smartphones also may be used. All Crime Stoppers reporting methods are anonymous.
LaDiff Now Open on Southside
Sit down, we’ve got furniture news.
LaDiff the hip furniture store left Shockoe Bottom for the sweet, sweet Southside. Now after 8 months their new location is open. They’re calling it an extremely soft opening so walls are still getting painted, product being placed, and outdoor furniture won’t be available until next spring.
You can get all the details on their website.
Attention River Lovers Huguenot Flatwater Work Day on Saturday
The universal access ramp is done at Huguenot Flatwater but there is still some finishing touches that need to be made to the are.
Needs plans for your Saturday? Come help out your local park system at the JROC project! We need LOTS of hands to prep the grounds at Huguenot Flatwater for the opening of the new universal access ramp!
We’ll be digging out and painting parking blocks, clearing debris, and opening up the area around the ramp. There’s more work to be done at the Western Overlook if we have enough help.
Meet at 9:00AM this Sat. 6/18 at Huguenot Flatwater in the James River Park System.