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Mental Health Subcommittee Meets in Augusta County

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The Joint Subcommittee to Study Mental Health Services in the Commonwealth in the 21st Century meeting at the Augusta County Government Center. The Joint Subcommittee to Study Mental Health Services in the Commonwealth in the 21st Century meeting at the Augusta County Government Center.
AUGUSTA COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - The movement to reform Virginia's mental health system came to Augusta County Tuesday. As part of a state-wide tour to better understand the big picture for mental health in the commonwealth, a panel of lawmakers is hitting the road to understand what's available to patients. The focus for the next two days will be on facilities in the Shenandoah Valley.

Tuesday, the Joint Subcommittee to Study Mental Health Services in the Commonwealth in the 21st Century met at the Augusta County Government Center and toured the Commonwealth Center for Children and Adolescents, an agency geared toward helping young people with mental health struggles.

State Senators Creigh Deeds (D) and Emmett Hanger, Jr. (R), along with 58th District Delegate Rob Bell (R), said they're glad to see this conversation take place in the Shenandoah Valley.

"The commission is going to be visiting actually on-site all over the state, and this is our first visit outside of Richmond. I'm very pleased…representing the valley area here…that the commission has come here to focus on some of what's going on in the valley," said 24th District Sen. Hanger.

The 12-member commission was established with General Assembly approval in the 2014 session. This group says it is taking a long-term approach.

"This particular commission is a bit unusual because it was created with a four-year life. A lot of times, we rush to make some quick decisions, and then we put our findings on the shelf," Hanger stated.

The commission received some good news Tuesday; a report from the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services shows that since new regulations went into effect in Virginia last July, no one in crisis has been turned away for lack of space at a care facility. That situation is what led to the suicide of Sen. Deeds' son, Gus, and propelled a reform movement in Virginia.

Richard Bonnie, a professor from the University of Virginia School of Law, led Tuesday's conversation at the Augusta County Government Center.

"I'm sure all of us hope that the tragic events that led to the creation of this body will yield palpable benefits for the people of the commonwealth," he stated. "We've made great progress, but there is some unfinished business."

Leaders are looking to gain a better understanding from the ground up in hopes of making Virginia's mental health system even better.

"The system is stressed. With our current system, we don't have enough resources to adequately address the needs, so I think we're all struggling now with how you address that,” Hanger stated.

One topic that drew attention Tuesday is Virginia's changing model of care.Leaders, like Hanger, say they're interested in driving Virginia's model of care toward more community-based services instead of lengthy stays in institutions.

Wednesday, the commission will meet and tour Augusta Health and the Valley Community Services Board.

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