Tag Archive: action alert

  1. Prioritizing Youth Mental Health Requires Intention and Investment


    Whether you are a young person, a parent, a mental health professional, or an educator, you have likely heard about the youth mental health crisis in the United States—it is being discussed everywhere, from kitchen tables to news stations to the Governor’s office. And while there is finally urgency around addressing the mental health needs of Virginians, we continue to see a catch-all response for adult and children’s mental health needs in our current policies. It is undoubtedly easier to design mental and behavioral health systems and services for adults and retrofit young people into them, but this results in supports that inadequately meet the needs of children and youth. To truly invest in the mental health of young people, policymakers must do so with intention. It requires centering the needs and experiences of young people—especially those who are Black, Latino, and LGBTQ+—and developing mental health services that prioritize healing and well-being.

    The past few years have been particularly difficult for young people. The Joint Legislative Audit & Review Commission’s (JLARC) November 2022 report shared several alarming statistics that articulate the dire need to intervene and support young people right now: 

    • Self-harm-related emergency department visits among Virginia youth, ages 9 to 18, more than doubled from 2016 to 2021, with the largest increase in self-harm visits occurring in 2021, according to the Virginia Department of Health, and   
    • Youth deaths by suicide, ages 9 to 18, averaged 4.9 deaths per 100,000 youth from 2015–2019, and were 6.2 per 100,000 youth in 2020 and 5.6 per 100,000 in 2021.

    Graph showing youth emergency room visits for self-harm have risen over time; increasing substantially in 2021

    This constitutes a youth mental health crisis. In order to meet this moment for youth mental health, there must be major shifts in how children and youth are prioritized in our system. Historically, new initiatives and service expansions have delayed the implementation of child- and youth-focused plans until phase two—a step that often takes too long to achieve. Mental health resources that are not intentionally designed to reach children and youth will not reach them.

    Capacity to build up the infrastructure at local Community Services Boards, particularly for children and youth, is needed. The ideal system offers young people mental health support when and where they need it, but the reality is children and youth do not have access to a comprehensive array of crisis response services depending on where they live, who pays for their care, and who helps them identify resources.

    Currently, there are only three Residential Crisis Stabilization Units (RCSUs) specifically for young people across the Commonwealth. One goal of Governor Youngkin’s “Right Help. Right Now.” behavioral health transformation initiativeis to add more youth RCSUs and to develop 23-hour Crisis Receiving Centers (CRCs) to serve as a “behavioral health urgent care”, both of which are critical components of the crisis services continuum. However, if the locations and services are not developed with young people’s needs in mind, they will not be as effective of a resource. Having a cross-lifespan model for RCSUs and CRCs that only incorporate child-sized recliners does not make a space child- and youth-friendly. The design of RCSUs and CRCs must be fundamentally different from the design of a traditional hospital, which are often sterile and unwelcoming environments. Young people need culturally and developmentally appropriate resources in these locations, such as places for their family members to rest, blankets, sensory toys and comfort items, and a warm and inviting environment to encourage healing and create emotional and physical safety.

    Virginia lawmakers have a chance to reimagine what it means to put young people’s needs at the forefront of their decision-making during the 2023 General Assembly session. Between Governor Youngkin’s proposed budget and several budget amendments before the legislature, there are opportunities to ensure behavioral health services are available in every region and designed with the needs of children and youth in mind. This includes expanding crisis response services with components specific to children and youth and providing adequate resources to build the capacity of the system.

    TAKE ACTION: We urge lawmakers to prioritize young people’s healing and well-being. This can be done by making a targeted investment in youth mental health through the state budget.

    Build out crisis response and stabilization services that offer young people support when and where they need it.

    • Continue the expansion and modernization of the statewide crisis services system by investing in crisis receiving centers and crisis stabilization units. Hire a staff member to oversee Children’s Crisis Response Services.
      • Support the Governor’s proposed budget to increase funding for a comprehensive crisis services system | $58,345,204
    • Fund contracts with private providers to establish mobile crisis units in underserved areas.
      • Support the Governor’s proposed budget to provide one-time funds for mobile crisis units | $20 million

    Prioritize young people in the design and implementation of mental health services.

    • Build upon the base of $8.4 million the legislature has provided since SFY2017 to expand or enhance children’s behavioral health services in all five Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS) health planning regions and keep a dedicated focus on infrastructure specific to children and youth services within DBHDS’s Office of Child and Family Services.
      • Support budget amendments for Children’s Behavioral Health Services: Item 313 #1h (Price)/Item 313 #6h (Seibold); Item 313 #5h (Rasoul); Item 313 #3s (Favola)
  2. Speak up for the Health of Virginia Families

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    Virginia is facing an important choice that affects the well-being of many families and children. Under the Affordable Care Act, Virginia has the opportunity to expand its Medicaid program to provide health insurance to adults making below 138% of the federal poverty level (that’s less than $33,000 for a family of four). Virginia has not yet chosen to expand Medicaid.

    The General Assembly established a commission to weigh the pros and cons and decide whether Virginia should expand Medicaid. That commission — the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission — is seeking public comment.

    You have a very important opportunity to weigh in on improving the health of Virginia families! There are 400,000 adults with very low incomes in Virginia who would be eligible for Medicaid if Virginia chooses to expand.

    As child advocates, why do we care? Because 25% of those eligible grown-ups are PARENTS of children under the age of 18. In other words, expanding Medicaid provides health insurance to 100,000 VIRGINIA PARENTS!

    Research shows that when parents have health insurance, they are more likely to enroll their kids in health insurance and take them to the doctor. That means more kids getting well-child check-ups, staying healthier, and whole families staying out of the emergency room when they get sick! Not only does that mean better health, but smarter spending of healthcare dollars.

    So what can you do?

    Provide public comment to the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission (MIRC), the group of legislators deciding whether we will expand Medicaid in Virginia. The deadline to submit comments: Wednesday, October 16, 2013 before 5:00PM. Let them know that expanding Medicaid helps improve the health of whole families in Virginia, including the kids of approximately 100,000 grown-ups. Every comment counts, and we need to make sure they know we are standing up for Virginia’s children and families.

    Here are some points you might want to make. Please personalize your comments.

    • I know someone personally who does not have health insurance, expanding Medicaid is important to me.
    • All Virginians deserve access to healthcare- expand Medicaid now!
    • Medicaid expansion bridges the coverage gap, ensuring that 400,000 Virginians have access to high quality affordable healthcare
    • The expansion will create 30,000 new healthcare jobs
    • Medicaid expansion will be 100% federally funded for the first 3 years and then 90% funded by the federal government starting in 2020
    • Access to insurance improves financial health for families and individuals.
    • In the past year, four in ten adults with serious mental illness went without mental healthcare, in large part due to having no insurance.
    • Six in ten adults living with a less serious mental health condition–
      but still a diagnosable condition requiring treatment–also went without any mental health care in the past year.


    Please click here to provide public comment to MIRC!

  3. New Medicaid Extension Action Alert

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    Thank you to all advocates who have emailed their legislators about the need to extend Medicaid to low-income, uninsured Virginians. Given what happened yesterday, we need your help again today on Medicaid extension.

    Yesterday, the House Appropriations and Senate Finance Committees approved their budgets. Unfortunately, both committees would delay implementation of Medicaid extension until various reforms have been completed, and the Senate budget requires action by the 2014 General Assembly before extension could be implemented. This means extension of Medicaid would have to go through the entire legislative process again AND would not begin until July 2014 at the earliest instead of January 2014.

    Here’s why that matters:

    • 400,000 very low-income Virginians (many of them parents) would have to go without needed health care for many more months if we delay extension.
    • Virginia would lose $5 million in federal funds for EACH DAY that we delay Medicaid extension beyond January 2014. That means that OUR federal tax dollars will be going to help people and create jobs in OTHER states instead of Virginia.


    Reforming the Medicaid program to be more effective is good; but reforms should be implemented along with the extension. Voices is part of the HAV Coalition: Healthcare for All Virginians. HAV has an updated fact sheet on Medicaid extension that clearly explains all the ramifications of delaying this action.

    The full House and full Senate will consider their own budgets this Thursday. Because Senate Democrats were very displeased with this delay, we are expecting – and we support – an effort to change the Senate budget amendment which delays implementation of the extension.

    Between now and Thursday, each of us needs to urge our senator to support a change to the budget language.  Please contact your senator (especially if Republican) to say that you oppose delaying implementation of Medicaid extension for the reasons stated above.

    Please do this even if you have already contacted them about Medicaid extension- this is a NEW request.

    To find out who your senator is, go to http://conview.state.va.us/whosmy.nsf/VGAMain?openform . If you CALL, use the Capitol number and give the message to your senator’s secretary.

    Thank you for taking action!


  4. Action Alert: Medicaid Extension!

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    We are at a critical point in Virginia regarding Medicaid Extension, and the legislature is divided. We need EACH OF YOU to email your legislators to help them understand the benefits of extending Medicaid to the 400,000 very low-income Virginians who would be eligible for this extension. This week is our last opportunity to influence the House and Senate budgets that are being developed; they will be voting on their budgets this Sunday, February 3.

    Many of those who would be covered are low-income parents. Currently, only parents earning less than 30% of the poverty line (less than $10,000/year for a family of 4) qualify for Medicaid. Yet, research shows that parents who are insured are more likely to enroll their children in insurance and access health care. Extending Medicaid to these parents means healthier families!

    In addition, Virginia stands to gain quite a bit economically from approving this extension: Over a ten year period, Virginia would receive over $20 billion in federal funding while spending under $150 million in state funds.

    • The cost to Virginia will be offset by savings in state‐funded health programs and state employee health insurance.
    • The federal funding will support 30,000 jobs which will generate income taxes and sales taxes, helping pay for Virginia’s share of costs.
    • Healthier people are able to work more than those with chronic, untreated medical conditions.


    Finally, if Virginia doesn’t extend Medicaid, our federal tax dollars will go to insure people in other states which choose to extend Medicaid. Let’s keep our tax dollars in Virginia to help our fellow citizens.

    Please email your legislators TODAY to let them know how important it is to their constituents to extend Medicaid!

  5. Report from Advocacy Day 2013

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    Thank you to all the advocates who attended Children’s Mental Health Advocacy Day last Thursday, January 24 at the Capitol! We had a wonderful turnout of folks from around the state despite having a little snow on the ground and bitterly cold temperatures. Family members, as well as public and private mental health providers, talked to their legislators about the importance of funding children’s crisis response services and child psychiatry.

    Legislators who stopped by the breakfast included Senators Hanger and Marsden, and Delegates Watts, Krupicka, Brink, Hester, Lopez, and Plum, as well as the legislative assistants of many others. We were also pleased to welcome Secretary of Health and Human Resources Bill Hazel and Commissioner of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services Jim Stewart.

    Thanks to Campaign steering committee partners the Virginia Association of Community Services Boards and National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) Virginia for their support.

    THIS IS THE FINAL WEEK of deliberations for the House Appropriations and Senate Finance Committees on their budget amendments; each chamber will release its budget on Sunday, February 3. Please email your legislators today (if you have not already) to tell them that increased funding for children’s mental health services should be a top priority!

    Here are some pictures from the legislative breakfast- click on them to get a better view!

    Ron Spears from Elk Hill and Linda Major from Hallmark Youthcare; Voices Executive Director John Morgan, Senator Emmett Hanger, and Malcolm King from the VA Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services; John Morgan, Campaign Coordinator Margaret Nimmo Crowe, Delegate Bob Brink, and VACSB Executive Director Mary Ann Bergeron; advocates Kandise Lucas and Pamela McMullen.


  6. Action Alert on Children’s Mental Health!

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    Now is the time to contact your legislators to ask them to prioritize new funding for children’s mental health services!

    We have made it easy for you to take action:

    1. Simply go to our online advocacy system and enter your name and address.
    2. Personalize the email by adding your connection to the issue– whether you are a parent, teacher, therapist, concerned grandparent, etc.
    3. Click send!


    We are requesting that the legislature accept Governor McDonnell’s additional $1 million for children’s crisis response services and child psychiatry and add another $450,000 to that amount so that projects can be funded in all 5 health planning regions of the state.

    Next week is the last week the House Appropriations and Senate Finance Committees will have to craft their budgets; each chamber releases its budget on Sunday, February 3. So now is the time to make your voice heard!

    Thank you. If you have questions, please contact Voices’ policy director Margaret Nimmo Crowe at margaret@vakids.org.

  7. Action ALert for General Assembly 2013

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    Now is the time to contact your legislators to ask them to prioritize new funding for children’s mental health services! We have made it easy for you to take action:

    We are requesting that the legislature accept Governor McDonnell’s additional $1 million for children’s crisis response services and child psychiatry and add another $450,000 to that amount so that projects can be funded in all 5 health planning regions of the state.

    Next week is the last week the House Appropriations and Senate Finance Committees will have to craft their budgets; each chamber releases its budget on Sunday, February 3. So now is the time to make your voice heard!

    Thank you.