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Mental Health Advocacy Days — Call to Action!

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.

February 5, 2018

We’ll have a good crowd in small spaces for our Mental Health Advocacy Days at the General Assembly on Monday Feb. 5th and Tuesday Feb. 6th. However, many more can participate on line, by phone or social media! Please lend your support for more services, specifically for children and youth mental health on Monday, and on Tuesday to support mental health services for all ages. For details on how to participate, priority budget items to support and how to contact your legislator, read on to find out more!

With our partners at NAMI Virginia, VOCAL, and Voices for Virginia’s Children, we’re supporting the following proposed amendments to the state budget:

  1. Alternative Transportation for Children and Adults in Mental Health Crisis (Item 311 #2h Patron: Watts; Item 311 #1s Patron: Hanger; Item 311 #3h Patron: Garret; Item 303 #4s Patron: Dunnavant)
    • Children and Adults in crisis are often transported to a mental health facility by law enforcement, which can mean being handcuffed in the back of a police car. This can further traumatize a child or adult, and takes many hours of law enforcement time away from their primary duties. A pilot project using an alternative provider showed much success in reducing trauma and freeing up law enforcement for their primary duties. The proposed funding builds on this pilot to expand the service in Virginia.
  2. STEP-VA: Continue Implementing the Plan to Improve Community Mental Health Services Throughout the State (From the Governor’s introduced budget)
    • In 2017 the state approved a plan to begin transforming our behavioral health system. Funding was provided for 18 of the state’s 40 community services boards (CSBs) to provide same day access to mental health care. Please support the funding to fully implement same-day access and primary-care-screening services at all 40 CSBs.
  3. Medicaid Expansion
    • Too many people are in a health coverage “gap”, ineligible for existing health insurance programs. By improving Medicaid coverage, Virginia could save money while covering 400,000 more people. Families throughout the state need preventive care to avoid costly emergency room visits and a way to get care when they need it without facing huge medical bills.

In addition to the above, MHAV strongly supports several budget amendments related to mental health services and the criminal justice system. For those interested in preventing recidivism through better care transition services between jail and the community, two of those budget items are listed below:

  1. Medicaid Enrollment for Eligible Inmates Prior to Release from Jail (Item 307 #7s, Patron: Dance)
    • Funds costs associated with streamlining Medicaid enrollment for eligible adult and juvenile inmates pursuant to 2017 study recommendations. The first few weeks after release from incarceration are crucial. Far too often, individuals with a serious mental illness leave jail with a long wait until they can resume health coverage for vital medications and treatment. These measures are expected to: (i) save state money on managed care contracts by identifying inmates upon incarceration; (ii) automate data exchange between the four state agencies involved (both juvenile and adult); centralize inmate medical applications; and (iv) allow for seamless enrollment upon re-entry.
  2. Discharge Planning at Local Jails (Item 312 #1s, Patron: Howell, Co-Patron: Deeds and Hanger)
    • Provides funding for Community Services Boards to provide discharge planning services at five jails with the highest percentage of inmates with serious mental illness. Discharge planning includes linking inmates with serious mental illness to community providers for treatment and housing and other needed services as they transition from jails to the community. This is a recommendation of the Joint Subcommittee to Study Mental Health Services in the Commonwealth in the 21st Century.

 

Please call or email your legislators now! Go to whosmy.virginiageneralassembly.gov to find out who your legislators are and how to contact them. Ask them to support more funding for mental health services, including any of the above items or other you support.

Thank you for your efforts to improve mental health in Virginia.

Bruce Cruser, Executive Director

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