Voices’ Blog

2023 General Assembly Budget Passes with Significant Investments for Youth and Family Well-Being

Posted:  -  By: Emily Moore

In the world of politics and public policy, budgets play a pivotal role in driving change and progress. They serve as the financial blueprints that determine the extent and influence of services and programs in our communities.  

The 2023 final budget arrives at a critical juncture, coinciding with a pressing crisis in youth mental health and a period where families are grappling with heightened poverty levels compared to the past three years.  

In this blog post, we will illuminate key budget areas that have a direct impact on young people and their families. Additionally, you can stay informed by signing up for our policy newsletter, as we’ll be sharing insights into Governor Youngkin’s signature budget proposal in December. 

Notable investments in the final budget compromise 

For a full overview of bills we supported, monitored, and opposed, visit our 2023 Legislative Agenda and Outcomes page. 

Early Care and Education

Promoting accessible and affordable early education and child care helps families work and helps children learn.

No additional money was included in the budget for Child Care Subsidy, Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI), or Mixed Delivery – the package reflects funding levels in the biennial budget.  

  • The budget did include authorization of waivers for altering staff-to-child ratios in licensed child day centers and child day centers that participate in the Child Care Subsidy Program. To read the full details, click here. 

Mental Health 

We will not accept a mental health system that treats children and youth as “phase two” — our system should prioritize children and youth to foster a lifetime of mental health and wellness. 

The 2023 budget creates a strong foundation for building and supporting a comprehensive continuum of mental health services that span from prevention to crisis. Many of the investments reflect components of Governor Youngkin’s signature behavioral health proposal, “Right Help, Right Now.” We are pleased to see a priority on youth mental health and an effort to transform the system to offer services and support whenever and wherever young people need them. 

  • $58 million to expand and modernize the comprehensive crisis services system (additional Crisis Receiving Centers, Crisis Stabilization Units, and enhancements to existing sites)  
  • $10 million in one-time funding for mobile crisis units in underserved areas  
    • There are currently 32 mobile crisis teams across the Commonwealth 
  • $4.2 million in additional funding for children’s behavioral health services, bringing total funding to $12.6 million (first increase since 2017) 
    • The compromise does not include the updated language suggestions, which would have supported flexible use of the funds 
  • $10 million for up to 3 comprehensive psychiatric emergency programs in emergency departments, including public-private partnerships  
  • $5 million in additional funding for school-based mental health integration grants through public or private provider partnerships, bringing total funding to $7.5 million 
    • The compromise does not remove the word “pilot” from the language, as the Governor’s budget proposed 
  • 10% rate increase for Medicaid-funded community-based services ($8.7 million):  
    • Intensive In-Home, Mental Health Skill Building, Psychosocial Rehabilitation, Therapeutic Day Treatment, Outpatient Psychotherapy, Peer Recovery Support Services — Mental Health 
    • Comprehensive Crisis Services (23-hour Crisis Stabilization, Community Stabilization, Crisis Intervention, Mobile Crisis Response, and Residential Crisis Stabilization), Assertive Community Treatment, Mental Health – Intensive Outpatient, Mental Health – Partial Hospitalization, Family Functional Therapy and Multisystemic Therapy 
  • $4.4 million inflation adjustment for the first three STEP-VA services: Same Day Access, Primary Care Screening, and Outpatient Services
  • $4 million in additional funding for Virginia Mental Health Access Program (VMAP) to expand to early childhood mental health and perinatal mental health, bringing total funding to $10.8 million  
  • $1.5 million for the Behavioral Health Loan Repayment Program for psychiatrists, licensed clinical psychologists, licensed clinical social workers, licensed professional counselors, child and adolescent psychiatrists, psychiatric physician assistants, psychiatric pharmacists, and psychiatric nurse practitioners
  • $18 million for a 5% salary increase for Community Services Board (CSB) staff, effective January 1, 2024
    • This increase is in addition to the 2% increase for state supported local agencies

Child Welfare 

The child welfare system was created to address family disruptions and to protect children and youth; the future of the system focuses on preventing disruptions and giving youth the tools to succeed. 

We are glad to see the investments to support kinship caregivers—it is past time that we provide similar levels of support to relatives and kinship caregivers that we provide to foster parents. Unfortunately, funding was not included for the Driver’s License Program for foster youth that we have been working towards since the funding was unallotted during the COVID pandemic. We are also disappointed to see that funding was not included for the Parent Legal Representation Pilot. Both of these issues were identified during the Foster Care Caucus meeting in February as priorities for supporting children and families involved in the child welfare system. 

  • Salary increases for local child welfare workers – $30 million 
  • Training and QA for Local DSS – $10.5 million  
  • Continue of the Enhanced Treatment Foster Care Pilot – $1.1 million 
  • The Dept. of Social Services (DSS) shall develop a plan to provide access statewide to a Kinship Navigator Program which will provide services to kinship caregivers who are having trouble finding assistance for their unique needs and to help these caregivers navigate their locality’s service system, as well as federal and state benefits (language only) 
  • Support for Safe and Sound Taskforce – $3 million 
  • Implement pilot programs that increase the number of foster care children adopted – $3 million 
  • Foster care agencies to cover the costs of coordination, recruitment, and additional training – $200,000 
  • The DSS shall create an emergency approval process for kinship caregivers and develop foster home certification standards for kinship caregivers  
  • Development of collaborative partnerships between local departments of social services to increase capacity to approve kinship caregivers and recruit, train, and develop locally approved foster parents – $600,000 
  • Implement Office of the State Inspector General (OSIG) child protective services recommendations – $8.2 million 
  • Convene a workgroup to examine inclusion of residential treatment services in managed care (language only) 

Health Care Access 

All children in Virginia must have accessible health care regardless of income, race, ethnicity or geography. 

While there are investments to address workforce needs and reimbursement rates, the budget did not go as far as it could have to ensure all children have access to health care coverage and high-quality care. The budget did not include funding for Cover All Kids or the Medicaid benefit study for Community Health Workers, both of which would have contributed to young people having uninterrupted access to culturally-responsive health care, particularly non-citizen children with undocumented status. 

  • $38 million NGF to support Dept. of Medical Assistance Services (DMAS) and local Dept. of Social Services (DSS) agencies during the 14-month Medicaid unwinding period  
    • This funding was allocated in the “skinny” (stopgap) budget passed by the General Assembly and Governor in April 2023 while full budget negotiations were still taking place 
  • $3 million in additional funding for the Nursing Preceptor Incentive Program, bringing the total funding to $3.5 million  
    • Adds Licensed Practical Nurse and Registered Nurse to the list of providers who are eligible for the program 
  • DMAS has authority to begin the reprocurement process for managed care services 
    • The RFP was released August 31, 2023 and DMAS is preparing for a summer 2024 implementation 
    • The procurement reflects DMAS’ goals to improve services, delivery and access in Right Help Right Now Behavioral health focus, maternal and child health, member engagement, single specialty plan for foster care, innovation, new technology, performance and quality improvement incentives, new payment models and increased accountability 
    • Cannot include any new services in the contract unless authorized by General Assembly 
    • Cannot create any future funding commitments unless authorized by General Assembly 

Family Economic Security 

Experiencing economic hardship impacts every aspect of a child’s life; a child cannot be healthy or ready to learn unless their family budget can provide for their day-to-day needs. 

The Governor’s proposed budget included nearly $1 billion in permanent, costly, and untargeted tax cuts that disproportionately benefited wealthy individuals and corporations. The compromise provides $96.2 million in permanent tax cuts, preserving funds in future budgets to be invested in critical and underfunded services, such as education and health care. 

  • During tax year 2024, there will be a modest increase for the state standard deduction ($8,500 for single filers and $17k for joint filers): budget impact = $48.1 million 
  • This fall, taxpayers will receive one-time rebates of $200 for single filers and $400 for joint filers: budget impact = $906.8 million  
    • These are nonrefundable, which will leave out some of our lower-income community members.  
    • These rebates also do not take into consideration family size. 
  • Lawmakers unfortunately failed to advance legislation to continue strengthening Virginia’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or establish a state Child Tax Credit (CTC). 
  • The budget does not include the 10% increase in Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) eligibility and assistance that the Senate proposed 
  • The budget does not include the proposed increase in funding for the “Virginia CASH Campaign” to support tax filing preparation at community action agencies 

Student Belonging and Connection 

Positive school climates are necessary for students to feel safe, accepted, and connected to their school environments. 

While the budget invests over $600 million in our public school system, the one-time nature of this funding limits our ability to address the long-term implications of workforce shortages and the immediate need for wraparound student supports. 

  • $152.3 million to get Virginia closer to lifting the cap placed on school support staff.  
  • $418 million in flexible one-time support for the implementation of the Virginia Literacy Act, learning loss recovery, and additional operating and infrastructure support 
  • $54.6 million for the state share of an additional 2% salary increase for school personnel 
    • A 5% increase was already budgeted, bringing the total salary increase to 7% 
  • By not increasing funding for the Virginia Tiered Systems of Support, the budget fails to invest in a positive behavioral interventions and supports program and professional development for educators focused on trauma-informed care 

Additional Investments for Young People 

Young people deserve a world where their potential is not predictable by race, gender identity, socioeconomic status, or geography. But as we know, there are barriers present that prevent young people and their families from thriving. The budget includes measures to address some of those barriers, such as funding to facilitate language access at state agencies and funding to support holistic, community-based strategies to address community violence and gun violence. 

  • $2.5 million for state agencies to facilitate and improve language access
    • Virginia Dept. of Social Services (VDSS) and Secretary of Health and Human Resources (HHR) to develop a process for receiving requests and administering the grants to state agencies 
  • $10 million for the Safer Communities Program 
    • Supports strategies that address the root causes and conditions of community violence, such as after school programs and mentorships, connections to education and economic opportunities, and trauma-informed mental health care 
    • Establishes the Office of Safer Communities under the Dept. of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) 
  • $5 million in additional funding for the Firearm Violence Intervention and Prevention Fund to support community engagement and youth programs 
  • Dept. of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) required to provide report to General Assembly money committees by December 1, 2023 on the impact of the Length of Stay Guidelines that were adopted by the Board of Juvenile Justice in November 2022 
Read More Blog Posts