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Amendments Reduce Legislature’s Increases for Mental Health

Virginia Legislature

Written by Bruce Cruser

Bruce Cruser has been Executive Director of Mental Health Virginia since 2016, bringing a background in social work and community corrections, and many years of leadership experience in local and state government.

April 17, 2024

Virginia’s behavioral health system has been in a crisis of its own for far too long. The governor’s introduced budget in December included millions in desperately needed increases for mental health crisis services, along with several other improvements, and we commend his making mental health a major priority. It is a vital first step towards creating a continuum of care accessible in one’s own community.

In March the legislature added a several million net increase to the governor’s proposed budget for mental health.

The governor’s recent amendments to the legislature’s budget reduce their increases for mental health by nearly $12 million a year. The amendments decrease CSB workforce support by $3.75 million, cut the increase in discharge assistance planning from $6 to $3 million, decrease expansion of Permanent Supportive Housing by $3 million, decrease new crisis staff from $2.5 to $2 million, and decrease new money for STEP VA by $1.2 million. 

Where we go from here may not be known for a while. Budget negotiations continue.

The good news is there will be significantly more funding for mental health services than there was last year. The disappointing news is that we may miss an opportunity to close essential gaps sooner.

Virginia’s challenges in addressing the population’s mental health are severe. We rank near the bottom of states in access to a trained mental health workforce. The long waiting lists for children seeking help for severe emotional needs are a travesty. Adults in some parts of Virginia wait months to see a psychiatrist. It can take years to fully implement new services.

We encourage all parties to keep the mental health of Virginians a top priority. Addressing a crisis sooner rather than later saves money. And it saves lives.

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