Mental Health Highlighted at Harrisonburg Hearing on VA Budget - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Mental Health Highlighted at Harrisonburg Hearing on VA Budget

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Across the state, Virginians are letting Governor Bob McDonnell know what they think of his $96 billion budget proposal for the next two years, and mental health care emerged as a big issue at a public hearing at James Madison University in Harrisonburg Friday.

People working to overcome disorders, as well as mental health professionals, came out and advocated for those needs. While many applauded the governor's plan to funnel in $38 million to boost mental health crisis funds, they also underscored other areas for concern.

McDonnell has proposed increasing the number of beds at psychiatric hospitals and expanding the availability of crisis centers. Last month, he created a task force with the mission of improving mental health services and crisis response. He also supports extending time limits on emergency custody orders for people in crisis. However, some of the speakers from the community hope the new money will also support ongoing care for people with differing levels of need, as well as more proactive measures to curb those moments of crisis.

"Community services are an important part of the behavioral health continuum. Please focus new funding on the entire continuum of care in Virginia,” said Nancy Cottingham, CEO of Horizon Behavioral Health.

Speakers also emphasized the importance of transitioning people back into their communities after a crisis.

One member of the newly created mental health task force, 24th District Senator Emmett Hanger (R), says one of the issues the state needs to address is that of continuity in delivery of service throughout Virginia's community service boards.

"So that no matter where you live, whether you live in the far southwest or whether you live in Northern Virginia or Hampton Roads, that the service that would be necessary in many instances, emergency services, would be available," Hanger said.

The task force will meet for the first time next week.

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