Voices’ Blog

Children’s Mental Health in the House and Senate Budgets

Posted:  -  By: Ashley Airington

This past Sunday, February 21st, the Senate and House “money committees” released their budgets. While there are differences in the House and Senate budget proposals, the great news is that both chambers prioritized funding for children’s mental health services. Here is what they did:


Children’s Crisis Services

Voices’ Campaign for Children’s Mental Health requested $6.65 million additional funding over the biennium to expand children’s crisis services and child psychiatry.

The Senate budget included an additional $5 million to create or expand existing children’s crisis response and child psychiatry in each of the five health planning regions, patroned by Senators Howell and Hanger.

The House budget included an additional $2 million to expand the system of community-based crisis response services, patroned by Delegate Yost.

This funding will build upon the base of $6.65 million the legislature has provided the last four years to expand or enhance services in all five health planning regions. We know that these services are making a huge difference in the lives of children with serious mental health challenges and additional funding will increase capacity across the commonwealth. We will advocate for the conference committee to adopt the Senate’s proposal.


Pediatric Mental Health Collaborative

The Senate budget includes $50,000 to develop the Virginia pediatric mental health collaborative in FY17, patroned by Senator Barker and Delegate Garrett. The goal of the Collaborative is to improve the integration of mental health in primary pediatric care for children in the Commonwealth. Voices will work with the Virginia Center for Healthcare Innovation and other stakeholders to create a plan to implement pilotHan child mental health access projects through which a mental health consultation team would provide clinical consultation to pediatricians who need assistance with managing their patients’ mental health needs.


Workforce Development

  1. Collaborative Plan for Loan Repayment for Behavioral Health Practitioners. While we are disappointed that neither the House nor the Senate included funding for the Behavioral Health Practitioner Loan Repayment Program (Del. Yost & Sen. Deeds), the House did include language directing the Virginia Department of Health to develop a plan to increase the number of behavioral health practitioners practicing in state and local behavioral health agencies and health safety net organizations through the use of a student loan repayment program. The plan shall be reported by Nov 1st, 2016.


  1. Report in Children’s Mental Health Workforce (Sen. Deeds & Del. Yost). The Senate included language in their budget that directs the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services to conduct a study of ways to expand mental health and primary care professionals that are trained to treat children’s mental health disorders. A few of elements of this study include: ways to increase the number of child adolescent psychiatrists working in Virginia; ways to increase the number of mental health professionals at all levels who are trained in best practices to treat child and adolescents including children under age 5. A report is due by July 1st, 2017.


Transition-age mental health services

Both the House (Yost) and Senate (Sen. Hanger) included language in their budgets directing the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services to report annually on the mental health outpatient services for transition-age youth. The report shall include information on the use and impact of these funds by October 1st of each year.


Once the full House and Senate each pass their own budget and reject the other chamber’s budget, a conference committee will be named to work out the differences. Since there are differences between the House and Senate budgets, it will be very important that we communicate with the conferees how important it is to provide funding for children’s mental health services. We will keep you updated on the budget and opportunities for advocating with the budget conferees.



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