Tag Archive: Bill explainer

  1. Bill and Budget Explainer: School-based Mental Health Services

    11 Comments

    Virginia is poised to make significant progress in children’s mental health during the 2023 legislative session. Virginia ranked as 48th in Youth Mental Health access according to Mental Health America and recommendations were identified by JLARC in their report Pandemic Impact on K-12 Public Education. School-based mental health services are an integral component to address the youth mental health crisis as schools are often where children and youth form positive and trusting relationships with adults and peers to address their needs. However, we have seen too many incidents where schools are not fully equipped to address mental health needs of students. We also must look to the future where federal ESSER funds that have boosted school-based mental health responses are scheduled to end.

    Actions taken by the General Assembly in recent years to improve the ratio of counselors to students, create school-based mental health integration programs, seek the reversal of the “free care rule” to bill Medicaid for school-based services, integrate mental health into Standards of Learning and regional Recovery High Schools have created the positive momentum for further action this year. In addition, we have seen the expansion of federal grants included in the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act and recent guidance from the Centers on Medicaid and Medicare Administration to leverage Medicaid to pay for school-based services. Read more about Medicaid funding for school-based services here.

    Legislation Considered by Education Committees

    SB1043 (McPike) | HB2124 (Wilt) | HB2187 (Rasoul) – School mental health and counseling, definitions, licensure requirements – SUPPORT

    The Senate version of this legislation incorporates the two policy changes in the House bills to refine the roles of school counselors and to provide flexibility in staffing for school psychologists. To help improve coordination of services, the Senate version also includes a directive to the Department of Education (DOE) to work with Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS) to develop a model Memorandum of Understanding for school-based partnerships with community-based mental health providers.

    SB1300 (Deeds) – Elementary & secondary school teachers, public: requirements, trauma-informed care training – SUPPORT

    This Senate bill outlines a training program for classroom teachers to receive training every three years developed by the DBHDS related to recognizing and addressing childhood trauma. This bill was conceived by a youth advocate, Elijah Lee. A budget amendment in the Senate budget provides funds to DBHDS to develop the training.

    SB1325 (McClellan) – Standards of Quality Specialized Support Positions – SUPPORT

    While there is shared interest in building on the Standards of Quality in the General Assembly, SB1325 that has passed the Senate and is being considered in the House specifically addresses the specialized student support positions (school social workers, school psychologists, school nurses, licensed behavior analysts, licensed assistant behavior analysts, and other licensed health and behavioral positions) intended to address student mental health and behavior supports. The budget conference committee negotiators should include $57 million in additional resources to improve the ratio of specialized student support personnel.

    SB818 (Spruill) – Programs of instruction on mental health education – SUPPORT

    This legislation adds additional specificity to the 2018 legislation that added mental health to the physical and health education Standards of Learning. This legislation outlines more specific curriculum guidelines to improve technical guidance to school divisions for age-appropriate sequential instruction and for local school boards to develop and implement policies related to mental health instruction.

    Budget Amendments Considered by House Appropriations and Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee

    Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services/Department of Education

    School Based Mental Health Integration Grants

    Last year, the General Assembly approved the first state-funded school-based mental health integration grants allowing DBHDS to offer grants to school divisions to expand school-based mental health services and community partnerships. Lawmakers should encourage DOE and DBHDS to collaborate on these efforts and should help define the roles for each agency. DOE should have oversight for school division implementation and DBHDS should provide expertise on  mental health services. In comparison, federal efforts for school-based mental health services are designed as a collaboration among Education and Health and Human Services. For example, both DBHDS and DOE have been awarded additional resources under the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act to implement school-based mental health services.

    • Recommendation: Establish grant funds at both DBHDS and DOE to leverage the expertise of DOE and DBHDS to expand school-based mental health partnerships. The General Assembly should create two grant funds this year of up to $15 million at both the DOE and DBHDS with specialized focus areas that utilize existing partnerships and centers of excellence. The focus of DBHDS should be on clinical expertise for developmental practice, screening and assessment tools, integration with community violence and substance abuse prevention services, and evidence-informed practices for mental-health treatment services in school-based settings. The focus of DOE should be on expanding the use of school-based mental health professionals, providing technical assistance for collaboration among school-based professionals (VPSMH), and integration with the Virginia Tiered Systems of Support (VTSS).

    Department of Education

    Virginia Tiered Systems of Support (VTSS)

    The House and Senate budgets both include additional funding to expand the Virginia Tiered Systems of Support in conjunction with recommendations from the Behavioral Health Commission. Currently, 58 school divisions participate in VTSS and have reported declines in school discipline referrals and school suspension. The Senate budget includes $1.5 million and the House includes $500,000 to expand VTSS.

    School Safety and Security Funding

    The House and Senate budgets both include additional resources to improve school safety and security. However, in light of several incidents of violence on school campus, or within a school community, such as the incidents at Richneck Elementary, we recommend that the purpose of these funds be expanded to not only to make school environments secure, but to also help respond to schools and communities when violence occurs.

  2. Bill Explainer: Foster Care Prevention Program, SB 923 (Sen. Favola)

    1 Comment

    Senator Favola, Chair of the Senate Committee on Rehabilitation and Social Services, has reintroduced a bill to create a Foster Care Prevention Program after it fell short during the 2022 legislative session. SB 923 establishes a program to facilitate placements of children and youth with relatives and ensure that these relatives are provided with the resources necessary to care for the children.

    Virginia has significantly increased kinship placements in the past few years, going from 5% of overall placements in 2016 to nearly 20% in 2022, with the national average being around 30%. These increased placements have occurred because of several advancements such as the creation of the Kinship Guardianship Assistance Program, creation of a kinship-only TANF financial assistance fund, and kin first guidance from the Virginia Department of Social Services (DSS).

    The bill introduced this year is slightly different and much improved compared to the previous version. Notably, this bill includes critical protections for both the child and their family of origin to ensure that parents have due process and  kinship caregivers have added supports, with the remaining goal of reunification.

    The bill would do the following:

    A child is considered eligible for the foster care prevention program if:

    • The child is in the custody of a relative by a court order.
    • The child’s parent or guardian voluntarily placed the child with a relative and has a written agreement with the local board of social services.
    • The child demonstrates a strong attachment to the relative, and the relative has a strong commitment to caring for the child.
    • The local department of social services has documented the need for the child’s placement with the relative, including a description of the reasons the local board determined that the child was at imminent risk of removal.

    If a child is deemed eligible:

    • The local Department of Social Services and the relative who has custody of an eligible child will enter into a written agreement. The agreement will include provisions regarding the amount of each Foster Care Prevention Program payment. In addition, the local department will determine if the kin needs ongoing case management services, in addition to the financial assistance.
    • The local board will identify the services and support that will be provided to the child, the relative with whom the child will be placed, and the child’s parent or guardian.
    • The local board will describe the requirements that the child’s parent or guardian need to meet for the child to return home and include the visitation arrangements for the child’s parent or guardian.
    • The parent or guardian must be made aware that they may seek legal counsel prior to entering into the agreement.

    *For purposes of this section, “relative” means an adult who is either related to the child by blood, marriage, adoption, or fictive kin of the child.*

    Show Your Support

    Send an email to your legislators asking for their support of SB 923. Once you have completed your email, share it with others on social media.

  3. Bill Explainer: Child Care Stabilization and “True Costs” of Quality SB1316 (McClellan)

    1 Comment

    There are two truths in early childhood education: parents can’t afford to pay any more for child care and teachers can’t afford to earn any less. The imbalance in this equation is due to the fact that child care is an expensive endeavor—low teacher to student ratios, safety precautions, play materials, etc. add up. For too long these costs have been passed along to parents for what they can “afford”. Now the average cost of infant care in Virginia is more than college tuition. 

    At the same time as costs were getting too high for parents, teachers also were not able to earn living wages. A recent UVA study of the racial composition and compensation of the early childhood workforce found that two out of five early educators in child care centers reported household incomes under $25,000. Prior to the pandemic, the national median wage in child care was $10-14 per hour.

    Long-term, we need more public investments to decrease costs for parents while providing better compensation to teachers. Short-term, we need creative solutions.

    Bill Explainer:

    Senator Jennifer McClellan’s SB1316 seeks to make a number of changes to stabilize the child care sector and improve our options to pay for the “true cost” of quality. These changes would utilize existing state and federal funds through the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) and/or federal COVID relief funds to pay for these initiatives.

    • To promote flexibility for child care providers to hire new staff and use substitutes, the legislation establishes a plan for portable background checks. Currently an employee’s background check stays with their employer instead of the individual. Del. John McGuire has a companion bill (HB2086) to implement portable background checks.
    • To establish a two-year pilot program to allow the state to contract with child care providers based on enrollment instead of attendance. The contract would also determine payment amounts based on the inputs for high-quality, full-time services and equitable compensation for early educators. 
    • To collect data on the inputs and costs related to providing high-quality services and the outcomes for quality improvement, workforce retention, and financial stability. 
    • To work in conjunction with the School Readiness Committee to evaluate the pilot and make recommendations for future payment practices and cost-of-quality reimbursement methods. 

    These innovations on how Virginia would pay for child care services are allowed by federal authorization, but few states take these options. Virginia would be a leader in moving down the path of providing flexibility and stability to the child care sector by using our funds for child care in these ways.

    We are also learning more about other bills that would improve access and affordability in child care and will add more to this space! Sign up to receive policy emails and the latest updates straight to your inbox.