After an extended General Assembly session, we are pleased the legislature approved a budget that includes Medicaid expansion that will cover nearly 400,000 more uninsured Virginians. This budget also includes over $56 million over two years for Voices’ policy priorities. These investments will improve the behavioral health system, enhance early childhood education, and begin to address childhood trauma. These successes are the result of our advocacy, our partnership in many coalitions, and the efforts of child advocates—families, providers, and youth—to speak up for the best interests of children.
Health and Behavioral Health
Setting a path forward for Medicaid expansion will provide health insurance coverage to nearly 400,000 more Virginians, over a quarter of which are parents. Research shows that when parents are healthy, their children are more likely to receive the health care that they need.
Establishing the statewide roll-out of an alternative transportation model for children and adults needing inpatient mental health treatment. The budget includes $7 million over the biennium to create an alternative system to the current methods using law enforcement officials, marked cars, and physical restraints that can traumatize children.
Investing in the STEP-VA plan to transform behavioral health services at the community services boards (CSBs), including an additional $12 million over the biennium to implement same-day access at each of the 40 CSBs, $11 million over the biennium for primary care health screenings, as well as additional investments in FY20 of $15 million for outpatient mental health services and $2 million for detoxification services. Many children receive mental health services at CSBs and will benefit from these system improvements.
Early Childhood Education
Additional funding for the Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI) of $4.6 million over the biennium to increase the per pupil rate, which helps localities afford the true cost of high-quality preschool.
A total of $1.875 million to enhance the quality of instruction in VPI by investing in classroom observations, site visits, technical assistance, and professional development. This package includes $175,000 for VDOE to develop an implementation plan and resume site visits, $700,000 over the biennium for classroom assessments, and $1 million for additional professional development for VPI teachers.
An additional $850,000 over the biennium for Early Impact Virginia as the home visiting umbrella organization to support the evaluation, needs assessment, and professional development systems for home-based parenting education programs operating locally.
With 19 percent of children in Virginia experiencing two or more adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), more community-based providers and local systems are recognizing the need to create approaches that consider how to prevent or reduce the impact of trauma. The budget includes language asking the state to convene an interagency workgroup to explore the uses of trauma-informed policies and practices at the state level.
The budget continues efforts to build trauma-informed approaches ineducation, including an increase of $1 million for Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) and an additional $500,000 for Virginia’s Tiered Systems of Support for the Virginia Department of Education to engage school divisions on trauma-informed approaches. Expansion of social-emotional and behavioral interventions are needed to help implement efforts to reduce school suspensions and to identify students needing additional mental health support.
The budget includes $167,800 in general funds to pull down additional federal dollars for the Kinship Guardianship Assistance Program (KinGAP). These funds will be used to help relative caregivers take children into care who do not have any other options for foster care placements or adoption.