Voices’ Blog

Children’s Mental Health Legislative Priorities 2019

Posted:  -  By: Ashley Airington

Over the last several years, behavioral health has been a focus for policymakers in Virginia. Efforts made by our Medicaid and behavioral health agencies and the Deeds Commission  have signaled Virginia’s dedication to transforming our behavioral health system for children and adults. While we can celebrate progress, many years of work and significant financial investments are ahead of us.

Our 2019 Children’s Mental Health legislative agenda focuses on the following priorities:


Improve access to mental health crisis services for children with developmental disabilities and co-occurring behavioral health support needs.

Voices will advocate for state general fund dollars to expand community-based mobile crisis services and regional crisis stabilization units for dually-diagnosed children and adolescents. Developing a robust continuum of crisis services in partnership with community services boards reduces costly and potentially traumatic in-patient hospitalizations and out-of-home placements.


Improve access to outpatient mental health services through the continued implementation of STEP-VA.

Over the last two years, the McAuliffe and Northam Administrations and General Assembly have invested significant state funding into building out STEP-VA, Virginia’s plan for improving statewide community-based mental health services for children and adults. Specifically, funding has been allocated to fully fund and implement Same Day Access and primary care screening at all 40 Community Services Boards and $15 million to partially fund outpatient mental health services. This year, we join our partners to ask for an additional $15 million to fully fund outpatient mental health services for children and adults at all 40 community services boards in Virginia.


Support the integration of mental health services in primary care by establishing the Virginia Mental Health Access Project (VMAP).

It is well documented that Virginia has a shortage of all mental health providers, especially child and adolescent psychiatrists. To help close the gap in care for children and adolescents living with mental illness who lack access to care, Virginia should invest in the Virginia Mental Health Access Project (VMAP). This project seeks to improve primary care providers’ ability to address children’s mental health needs through specialized mental health training, telehealth training and services, improved care coordination, and behavioral health consultation services.


Improve access to health and mental health services by increasing Medicaid reimbursement rates for primary care providers and licensed mental health professionals.

In Virginia, there is a critical shortage of licensed mental health professionals available to treat children and adolescents in need. Increasing Medicaid reimbursement rates for primary care physicians and licensed mental health professionals is necessary to promote robust access to necessary health care and specialized behavioral health services.


Strengthen early childhood mental health policies to support the healthy development of young children in Virginia.

As the commonwealth transforms our behavioral health system, it is important to build a statewide infrastructure that ensures evidence-based early childhood mental health services are available across the state. Financing options including Medicaid and other new federal funding streams, such as opioid response grants and Title IV-E, can be explored as options to build the needed infrastructure.

Stay tuned for additional information about each of these budget priorities. 

Questions? Contact Children’s Mental Health Policy Analyst, Ashley Everette: ashley@vakids.org

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