2015 General Assembly Information
During the 2015 Virginia General Assembly session (which begins January 14th, 2015), Voices will send a weekly online newsletter every Friday and Action Alerts at other times when direct action is needed on specific legislation or the budget. You’ll find links in each of our advocacy areas below that will allow you to delve deeper into our work, access relevant materials, and receive updates on our priorities.
Here you’ll find information on our specific legislative initiatives for the upcoming session.
The Children’s Agenda:
Child Welfare & Foster Care
This year, Voices will continue to address the ongoing crisis that results when youth age out of the foster care system without permanent connections. By championing several specific pieces of legislation aimed at this effort, we will advocate for increased access to programs, services and funding available to foster youth between the ages of 18 and 21 years.
We are also focused on access to health care under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for youth who are aging out of foster care. The ACA provides Medicaid eligibility for these youth up to the age of 26, to mirror a similar ACA provision allowing youth to stay on their parents’ health insurance to age 26. Voices is advancing policies that help to refine, streamline, & make more accessible this right to health care for former foster youth.
You can use the “Learn More” button below for relevant posts about our progress on child welfare issues during session.
Children’s Health & Mental Health
In the 2015 General Assembly session, the Campaign for Children’s Mental Health is once again at the forefront, advocating for a stronger mental health system for children. Our priority this year continues to be building on the system of community-based crisis response services and child psychiatry. We have successfully advocated for funding the last three sessions to start and enhance these services in all five health planning regions of the state. Funds are being used to provide faster access to psychiatrists in person and through telepsychiatry, as well as to provide mobile crisis teams and residential and day crisis stabilization services.
Where services exist, they are making a huge difference. The problem is that the $4.15 million currently available in the budget for this purpose are inadequate to meet the need. The funds are supposed to increase to $4.65 million in FY16 — an improvement — but still a small amount of funding to reach kids in every corner of the Commonwealth who have serious mental health challenges.
Early Childhood Care & Education
Voices convenes the Early Childhood Policy Action Network of stakeholders in early care and education which has developed the 2015 Unified Early Childhood Agenda, “Building the Path to Virginia’s Prosperity”. This agenda establishes shared priorities for 19 early childhood stakeholder organizations. The path to prosperity outlines the steps Virginia must take to ensure all children enter school ready to learn.
The shared priorities of the Unified Early Childhood Agenda are:
- Continue investments in two-generation approaches to addressing poverty and school readiness
- Ensure safe child care environments for all children
- Improve quality by improving the skills of early childhood educators
- Maximize the Virginia Preschool Initiative through a mixed delivery approach
- Align our existing resources across agencies to improve coordination and collaboration
Voices is also supporting partner organizations taking the lead in the areas of Access to Health Care and Family Economic Security.
Most critical in this area is the issue of closing the health care coverage gap, which, if enacted, would make health care available through Medicaid (or similarly-funded benefit) to individuals up to 133% of the Federal Poverty Level (meaning only a little under $31,000 for a family of four).
We will also be working with our partners at the Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis on bringing a more robust, meaningful Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to Virginia, and we’ll be working to ensure protections for other critical family benefits, such as TANF. We’ll keep you posted on the specifics of those efforts, as well.