NORTHERN VIRGINIA (WDVM) — Inova Health System filed a letter of intent with the Commonwealth of Virginia to add 20 additional inpatient behavioral health beds.

The request comes as the mental health crisis in Virginia continues to rise as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

“What we’re seeing is about 1,200 patients with behavioral health needs coming through our emergency department every month. Those are unprecedented numbers,” says Linda J. Lang, MD, Chairperson, and President, Inova Behavioral Health Services

Lang says patients have been impacted in different ways by the pandemic.

“People are suffering with tremendous anxiety, depression, fear, loneliness or perhaps losing their jobs, getting laid off,” she says.

Cases of alcoholism and other addictions have also greatly increased during the pandemic. By filing the letter of intent, Inova hopes to expand its behavioral health unit across its 11 emergency rooms, particularly at Inova Mount Vernon Hospital.

“There will be private rooms in a brand new behavioral health unit. We are already in the process of hiring more clinicians,” says Lang. “We’re well aware of the mental health crisis in our nation and in Northern Virginia… I am really looking forward to having this opportunity to expand our beds.”

If approved, construction of the new beds could begin in early 2022.