McAuliffe Unveils Reform Proposals for Va's Mental Health SystemPosted: Updated: Dec 14, 2016 07:10 PM
On Wednesday, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe (D) and members of his administration unveiled their proposals to strengthen Virginia’s mental health system.
They specifically want to improve access to behavioral health and substance abuse treatment. Ahead of Friday’s big budget speech, McAuliffe gave a preview of some of his plans.
He specifically addressed concerns he has about Virginians with mental illness ending up in jails, as well as those struggling to overcome opioid or heroin addiction.
McAuliffe wants the General Assembly to give the green light to $31.7 million to expand and enhance treatment for these issues in state facilities, community service boards and local and regional jails.
He would also like to see more community service boards ensure same-day screening and assessment services for Virginians in crisis. The governor recommends $4.5 million be put toward an evaluation of Virginia’s entire behavioral health system.
"We respond to tragedy, then a year or two goes by and when the urgency is gone, we settle back into the same old status quo. I am determined to break that cycle," said Governor Terry McAuliffe.
The conversation about upgrading Virginia's mental health system took off after Virginia State Senator Creigh Deeds' son, Gus, attacked his father, then killed himself in 2013. The family had been desperately trying to get the young man help, but community-based care ran out of time in trying to locate a bed for him at a psychiatric center.
In the aftermath of the Deeds family loss, lawmakers approved the creation of an online psychiatric bed registry and an extension for how long community service boards have to find hospital placement for a patient.
"When a tragedy happens, we work to patch up the cracks and the system that contributed to it, but as we all know in this room, patches are not fixes and they clearly are not permanent fixes."
McAuliffe also proposes legislation to limit prescriptions to opioid pain-killers, expand online tracking of those prescriptions, and add opportunities for those convicted of violent crimes to enter drug treatment court.
Lieutenant Governor and Doctor Ralph Northam says addiction is one of the most pressing problems in Virginia.
“Over 800 deaths we had from Opioid overdose in the past year and if we don't wrap our arms around this and find some solutions with urgency, we will see over a thousand deaths in the upcoming year," said Northam.
Deeds has already been overseeing a four-year long study of Virginia's mental health care system. McAuliffe says his plans would not duplicate existing efforts for reform.
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