This past Saturday was a busy day in Richmond with both the House and Senate tying up all of the loose ends of the 2013 Session and wanting to adjourn on time. Not to get lost in all of the last minute shuffling, we want to acknowledge and celebrate the many good things included in the budget conference report reflecting Voices’ priority issues. As advocates, you all played a tremendous role in these successes. The conference budget, now approved by the General Assembly, goes to the Governor.
Your tremendous outpouring of support for early intervention (Part C) services for babies and toddlers helped to secure $2.3 million in funding in the current fiscal year and $6 million to meet the shortfall next fiscal year. We are very thankful that the conferees agreed to support the Senate’s request of an additional $3 million on top of the Governor’s proposal of $3 million. Although there will still be a small shortfall, the additional funding will put programs in a much better position for next year. Item 315 #1c
Children’s Mental Health
The conference budget included an additional $1.9 million in FY14 for children’s crisis response services and child psychiatry (Item 315 #4c). This total includes the $1 million added by the Governor and the $900,000 approved by the General Assembly. This amount is in addition to the $1.75 million included in the FY14 budget during the 2012 session that will continue to be awarded to the three regions currently funded, bringing the statewide total to $3.65 million.
The conference budget also includes funding for two training and awareness programs recommended by the Governor’s School Safety Task Force:
Mental Health First Aid received $600,000 in FY14 (Item 315 #2c). Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is a 12-hour interactive course that teaches the risk factors and warning signs and symptoms of mental health disorders to clergy, teachers, health professionals, and others.
Suicide prevention efforts received $500,000 in FY14 (Item 314 #3c). Funds will go to DBHDS to collaborate with several other state agencies for a comprehensive suicide prevention plan.
Foster Care/Child Welfare
The conference budget provided funding to implement Voices’ bills on independent living, House Bill 1743/Senate Bill 863. These bills allow youth coming out of the Department of Juvenile Justice between ages 18-21 who were former foster youth to get assistance in independent living skills. The funding is combined from CSA funds of $97,614 (Item 283 #1c) and DSS funds of $19,945 (Item 338 #1c) in FY14.
After lots of last minute twists and turns, Virginia now has a path forward to extend Medicaid to the 400,000 low-income Virginians who would be eligible for Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act. The conference budget includes language allowing Virginia to move forward if DMAS adopts certain reforms, and gains federal approval of other reforms (Item 307 #20c). The budget creates a new commission, the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission, with the authority to determine whether enough reform has been done to start the eligibility expansion. The House has named its members to the Commission: Dels. R. Steven Landes, R-Augusta, Jimmie Massie, R-Henrico, John M. O’Bannon III, R-Henrico, Johnny S. Joannou, D-Portsmouth, and Beverly J. Sherwood, R-Frederick. The Senate has not yet named its members.