Voices’ Blog

Strengthening the Children’s Mental Health System in Virginia: Budget Amendments

Posted:  -  By: Ashley Airington

The 2017 General Assembly is well underway, and the Campaign for Children’s Mental Health is once again at the forefront, advocating for a stronger mental health system for OUR children in Virginia. Our priority this year continues to be expanding the reach of children’s crisis response and child psychiatry services.

Where services exist, they are making a huge difference. The problem is that the $8.4 million currently available in the budget for this purpose are inadequate to meet the need. This year, Senator Howell and Delegate Yost have introduced budget amendments to enhance the services statewide by $2 million in FY18. We need all advocates for children’s mental health to reach out to their legislators and ask them to support these amendments:

Expanding Community-Based  Children’s Crisis Services and Child Psychiatry

Senate Patron:  Howell (Item 315 #1s)
House Patron: Yost (Item 315 #1h) Co-patron: O’Bannon
This amendment increases funding by $2 million GF in FY18 to create  new or expand existing child psychiatry and crisis response services for children in each of the five health planning regions across the state. Funds are being used to provide faster access to psychiatrists in person and through telepsychiatry, as well as to provide mobile crisis teams and residential and day crisis stabilization services.


Additionally, we support the following:

Mental Health Screening in Elementary Schools Pilot

Senate Patron:  Deeds (Item 138 #1s)
House Patrons: Yost (Item 132 #2h)

This amendment provides $436,250 for the Department of Education to fund the first year of a three year pilot to implement mental health screening in schools at three elementary school sites in Virginia, as described in the November 2016 Final Report on Mental Health Screening in Public Elementary Schools submitted by the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services. The pilot schools shall be selected by DOE. During the first year, each pilot site will train school personnel in child mental health practices, develop and refine policies and procedures for each specific pilot site, and begin the process of hiring or reassigning staff. During the second and third years, demonstration sites will begin implementing screening processes and collecting data. During year three, demonstration sites will work with DOE to form recommendations for future implementation. Each site shall include: 1) a screening coordinator, 2) a contracted qualified mental health professional, 3) decreasing the current ratio of school counselors to students, and 4) mental health training offered to all school employees.


STEP Virginia-Same Day Access

The Governor’s budget provides funding to take the first step in moving towards a comprehensive state system of standard community treatment options by funding the implementation of “same day access” to screening and assessment services to children and adults at 25 of our 40 community services boards, with the remaining CSBs to come on board in the next biennium. $6,879,500 million GF is provided in FY 2018 to DBHDS and DMAS to fund additional intake and evaluation staff at CSBs to ensure that every person who walks through the door is screened the same day.

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