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  1. 9-8-8 is Just One Step Towards a Comprehensive Crisis Services System

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    This blog is the second post in a two-part series that takes a deeper look into Virginia’s efforts to integrate the 9-8-8 hotline with the behavioral health crisis services continuum. Read the first blog post in the series here.

    For years, communities have advocated for diverting mental and behavioral health calls away from law enforcement and for states to adopt a comprehensive crisis response system. Now, that dream is beginning to come to fruition. On July 16, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline transitioned to the three-digit number 9-8-8. While this transition was initiated by legislation at the federal level, states are responsible for the rollout and linkages to their crisis response systems when the caller’s needs cannot be resolved over the phone. Virginia has been working on a rollout behind the scenes to link the lifeline to crisis response services that are currently being designed and implemented by state agencies and stakeholders.

    The commonwealth’s plan for minimizing emergency room visits for mental health crises and providing an alternative to calling 9-1-1 is to link the crisis call centers with regionally focused resources by integrating mobile crisis response alongside the Marcus Alert protocols. However, at this moment, this is simply the goal and not the reality. The development and implementation of Virginia’s behavioral health crisis system has been a piecemeal approach, and is not yet fully prepared to deliver comprehensive, trauma-informed, and culturally responsive services to meet individuals’ mental health needs—specifically the needs of young people

    The Surgeon General sounded the alarm in December 2021 by issuing an advisory on the youth mental health crisis. Despite widespread awareness, young people’s mental and behavioral health needs are often an afterthought or part of “phase two” when developing programs and services. Current resources dedicated to young people’s behavioral health make up less than 10% of Virginia’s overall behavioral health agency budget. The lack of sufficient funding and resources further the disparities that historically marginalized communities face in accessing support and services.

    Due to the inconsistent mental health crisis services across regions, law enforcement is often the first point of “care” for mental health emergencies, especially for Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and LGBTQIA+ youth. While most calls to 9-8-8 can be resolved during the call, some crises will require an in-person response based on a four-level call matrix.

    four level call matrix

    This new entry point for mental health support is supposed to be an alternative to law enforcement response, but a new law allows 89 of Virginia’s 133 localities with 40,000 or less residents to opt out of two protocols under the Marcus Alert System. This means that for those living in one of the 89 localities that are not required to implement all Marcus Alert protocols, an attempt to get in-person crisis support may still result in law enforcement, with or without Crisis Intervention Training, responding to your call. The criminalization of youth crises often results in further traumatization. This experience can intensify their crisis, compromise their treatment, and make them and their families less willing to call for help if another crisis occurs. Far too often children and families are met with a response that is not suited to meet their immediate or long-term needs.

    At a time when young people need support the most—while their worlds have been turned upside down by COVID-19—we must ensure there are providers and services in place to provide access to timely, culturally responsive services, and address social determinants of health to support children and families’ overall wellbeing. This requires investments from lawmakers and interagency collaboration.

    For 9-8-8 to be truly transformative, investments are needed now.

    While all these recommendations are not immediate and some are considerations for future policy, Voices for Virginia’s Children suggests the following key recommendations:

    • Mobile Crisis services need to be fully funded across all regions, with an emphasis on providing services in underserved and rural communities. Voices also suggests separate mobile crisis protocols designed specifically for youth, as the intervention points at which young people receive support may include schools, parental consent, developmental appropriateness, or specifically trained professionals;
    • Mobile Crisis and Community Care teams should include a peer specialist, interpreter, community advocate, and child-serving mental health professional;
    • More small-scale children’s Crisis Stabilization Units should be placed in communities across the state;
    • Establish an infrastructure for language access and a culturally diverse and appropriate workforce;
    • Mandatory trainings should include equity-centered concepts, including implicit bias training, trauma-informed care, child and adolescent development, and training specific to special populations (i.e., LGBTQIA+ youth and youth with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities);
    • Stakeholders involved in implementation should include those most impacted, such as youth with lived experience and communities of color;
    • Ensure that crisis response protocols and services are equipped to support systems-involved youth and their family members. Protocols should be designed to avoid future involvement in the child welfare system or juvenile justice system.

    Voices will continue to advocate for increased access and improved coordination of quality mental health services for all children in Virginia, regardless of where they live or at what point they seek mental health services. The future wellbeing of our state depends on how we support and invest in the next generation.

    To learn more about Virginia’s plan for crisis system transformation, visit these resources: Virginia’s Crisis System Transformation and Marcus Alert and STEP-VA.

  2. General Assembly 2022: Mental Health Wrap-Up

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    The momentum was in place for children’s mental health in Virginia. The US Surgeon General and key advocates declared a national emergency to confront a decade-long decline in children’s mental health. Despite widespread concern, Governor Northam’s original budget proposal did not fund new programs in schools for children’s mental health. To meet the moment, a bipartisan group of legislators and advocates from various communities lobbied for investments in psychological services and counseling. Additional resources of $1.4 million per year will expand the Virginia Mental Health Access Program to integrate services in health care settings. Noted below are other new investments integrating mental health in school settings, increasing reimbursement rates, and supporting the workforce.

    A First Step for School-Based Mental Health Integration 

    Over the last three years, the General Assembly has focused on improving school-based mental health by funding specialized student support positions—counselors, social workers, and psychologists. While students have benefited from better relationships with faculty, COVID presented unanticipated disruptions, rapidly increasing needs, and barriers to vital care. School divisions have responded by allocating federal recovery funds into training, coaching, and even bringing community-based mental health professionals into schools.

    However, federal support during this emergency is impermanent and mental health threats are ongoing. School divisions need resources to continue to support these efforts. Voices led advocacy for additional state general fund resources supporting school-based mental health in flexible ways to assist school divisions in identifying key partnerships and resources. The General Assembly allocated $2.5 million in FY23 to begin supporting school-based mental health services and included language asking the newly established Behavioral Health Commission to study how schools can better integrate mental health services with sustainable funding streams such as Medicaid.

    The General Assembly also approved funding to establish a regional Recovery High School based in Chesterfield where substance abuse recovery is incorporated into the school day. The proposal by Delegate Carrie Coyner was finally approved after the 2020 COVID response cut funding. Other high schools will be able to look toward this model to support health needs in the classroom.

    Senator Jennifer McClellan has been a significant leader on school based mental health and increasing resources for school-based professionals. Read more in her Op/Ed in the Fredericksburg FreeLance Star.

    Addressing Workforce Shortages

    The lynchpin to support the social and emotional well-being of students is having an appropriate workforce. We are excited about two changes that will help address pressing workforce challenges.

    The House and Senate approved HB829, proposed by Del. Tony Wilt, that will provide flexibility on a provisional basis for licensed mental health professionals without certification to work in school-settings. This flexibility will ensure that school divisions can hire more mental health staff.

    The budget adopted by the General Assembly includes funding for a new initiative to help mental health professionals seeking licensure when they must pay for their supervision time out-of-pocket. The new initiative, Boost200, will provide resources to cover out-of-pocket expenses for licensure and match them with approved supervisors. This initiative is poised to make a significant impact on removing barriers towards licensure and diversifying the mental health field. Learn more about participating to address licensure costs or to work as a supervisor.

    Improving Medicaid Reimbursement Rates

    The third area that the legislature improved on mental health services was improving Medicaid reimbursement rates for several mental health services. Federal funds from the current “public health emergency” have increased payment rates for community-based services by 12.5%. The General Assembly approved resources to continue financing those services. The General Assembly also improved rates for psychiatric residential treatment facilities. Many facilities served children from other states and lacked placements for children in Virginia, leading to greater instability for the hardest to place children, who are the focus of the Safe and Sound Task Force. The increased rates should help caregivers meet immediate needs, but challenges remain to ensure that children are not placed in inappropriate and lengthy stays in congregate settings. While increasing Medicaid rates is a positive step, adequate reimbursement is essential to looking after the mental health of economically disadvantaged children and vulnerable children in the foster care system.

  3. General Assembly 2022: Early Education Wrap-Up

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    Virginia lawmakers continued to create a path for growth and expansion in early education with the outcomes of the budget negotiations in the 2022 General Assembly Session. Building off years of historic state and national investments, the legislature approved significant resources for early childhood for FY23-24. The legislature approved several new initiatives and the bulk of the early childhood expansion proposals in Governor Northam’s outgoing budget.

    After years of significant strain on the child care industry and after a House of Delegates proposed budget made significant cuts to Northam’s proposals, early childhood advocates have something positive to celebrate in this state budget. The final compromise left most of his proposal in place. In recent comments, Governor Youngkin recognized a significant bi-partisan shift to support early education that he hoped the legislature would restore funding to early education.

    Below are the initiatives that will strengthen early education and the child care sector in the budget. In total, the budget includes an additional $76 million in state funds and an additional $7.5 million in ARPA funding for early education and child care.

    Six bipartisan legislators received Child Care Champions Awards from the Virginia Promise Partnership at an awards reception on June 1, 2022.

    Six bipartisan legislators received Child Care Champions Awards from the Virginia Promise Partnership at an awards reception on June 1, 2022.

    Creating a Stronger, More Equitably Resourced Early Education System

    A combination of policy changes in legislation and language in the budget will strengthen the alignment and oversight of early education programs.

    • The Regional Early Education System and Overpayment Fund HB 389, sponsored by Del. Bulova, was signed into law to create the structure for Ready Regions throughout Virginia and capture any overpayment to localities of subsidy funds so it does not revert to other areas.
    • Increasing the VPI per-pupil allocation to $8,359 will reflect the true cost of quality early education programs. In addition, language asks the Department of Education to conduct an annual benchmarking of VPI funding, as is done with other K-12 funding streams.
    • Language for more flexibility in the use of VPI funds will allow school divisions to serve more students with disabilities and expand to serve 3-year-olds in VPI funded programs.
    • An additional $6.7 million will expand public/private options for state-aligned preschools through the VECF mixed-delivery program. These funds will support the early childhood education of an estimated additional 500-600 students, including 200 infants and toddlers.
    • The legislature has directed $3.5 million in ARPA funds to the United Way of Southwest Virginia for a new initiative expanding child care capacity, “Ready Southwest”.

    Compensation and Retention for Early Childhood Educators

    • The approved budget will expand the early educator incentive grant program by an additional $5 million per year to recruit and retain early childhood professionals.
    • While reforms to the hiring process and background checks for provisional employment did not move forward, the Commissioner of Social Services has begun a process review and promise to address the timeliness of background checks.

    Accessibility and Affordable Care for All Children

    • Building off the legislation that passed last year, the new budget continues to expand child care assistance eligibility and reduces parent co-pays. Families with children under five, up to 85% of the state median income, and families looking for a job are eligible now for this assistance. The budget also eliminates the 72 month time limit to receive assistance, removing an arbitrary time limit for families who may have multiple children who could otherwise qualify for assistance.
    • The legislature also provided $4 million in ARPA federal funds to support 21st Century Community Learning Centers. These federal funds will strengthen school-based, out of school-time, programs that are affordable.
    • Governor Youngkin signed SB69 sponsored by Sen. Favola allowing home-based child care programs to be approved on the site of rental properties.

    Healthy Development

    • The legislature provided a $2.9 million increase each year to the base allocation for Part C Services early intervention services funded through DBHDS. This will contribute to services for infants and toddlers with developmental disabilities and delays.
  4. Share Your Story: Back to School

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    As children across Virginia head back to school, many families are feeling uncertain. Lawmakers have taken steps to expand access to child care, to increase food benefits and offer free school meals and to provide child tax credits. These supports are necessary and appreciated. At the same time, there are challenges that will make this year’s back to school transition difficult such as lack of paid leave, long waiting lists to enroll in child care programs and costly back to school purchases.

    We believe that lawmakers will help families and we know they have the ability to provide help. Right now Congress is considering the Build Back Better recovery plan that includes 12 weeks of paid family leave, additional funding for child care, extensions of the monthly child allowance and more. This is the opportunity to pass a comprehensive package to provide families and caregivers with the support you need. With so many things happening in the world at once, we need to bring the focus back to children and families. We need you to share your story.

    Complete this form to share your story.

    You have a couple of options…

    1. type up your story and submit or

    2. submit your name and we’ll follow up to interview you and record a story.

    We will connect with you to approve your story before it shared and let you know more about where and how it can be shared. We would like to collect as many stories as possible in the first two weeks of children going back to school. We appreciate your patience in reviewing your story and getting back to you.

    We can’t wait to hear from you.

  5. Asian American Trauma Impacting Virginia’s Children

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    There has been a 46% increase in acts of violence and discrimination of Asian Americans in the past year.

    According to data released by Stop AAPI Hate:

    • 3,800 reports of violence that ranged from stabbings, beatings, to deaths, were completed over the past year (March 19,2020-February 28th, 2021) of the pandemic for Asian Americans, which is significantly higher than the previous year’s number (2,600).
    • Of these assaults, youth up to age 17 made up over 12% of the incidents. 
    • Virginia made the list of the states with the greatest rate (11 rank at 1.29 and 49 cases).

    These numbers are powerful data points that partially quantify the scope of discrimination Asian Americans experience. These numbers only represent a small portion of the crimes that have actually occurred. There are several data challenges that point to rates much higher than we know. The Justice Department and FBI are required by a 1990 Hate Crime Statistics Act to publish an annual report on hate crime statistics. This source is the most comprehensive look at hate crimes across the country; however, incomplete due to the inconsistency of required reporting of law enforcement agencies. Out of the 18,000 agencies across the US, nearly 3,000 of them did not report data in 2019. In addition to the lack of reporting, under reporting of individuals who have experienced a hate crime is also common. Those individuals may be scared of retaliation or think that it wasn’t reportable due to the type or scope of the incident.

    In addition to underreporting by both the victim and law enforcement agencies, another challenge is the way in which race groups for those of Asian race are lumped together. In a study conducted by Washington Center for Equitable Growth in 2016, there are a many as 50 different races and ethnicities that can be classified under the broad term Asian American or Pacific Islander. By lumping race groups together and not capturing all the unique races and ethnicities that the term Asian race contains, it limits a complete picture of the patterns and trends occurring, which prohibit evidence-based solutions to be implemented equitably amongst all in the Asian community.

    What we do know is trauma, like the violence experienced by Asian Americans, impacts children. According to Census data obtained by the Virginia Kids Count Data Center:

    It is unclear what projections of percentages of child poverty will be in the coming future. Federal legislation like the Family First Act and the EITC amendment, will aid families with some economic relief, but other unknown factors such as the unemployment rate and when public health restrictions are lifted prohibit a clear picture. 

    Our goal is to ensure no child or person experiences a hate crime or any type of violence. Children experiencing trauma, which can be a single event or multiple events, can having lasting impacts on the individuals physical, social, emotion, or spiritual well-being. Racism is a driving factor that impacts the social determinant of our personal and public health, family economic security, housing, food security, and education. Immediately, we are seeing impact in decisions parents are making regarding children’s immediate learning environment in places like Fairfax County Public Schools in Northern Virginia, which is the largest district in Virginia.  According to  a recent presentation of the Fairfax school board regarding back to school instruction, in the spring of 2021 just over 30 percent of Asian families selected face-to-face instruction. This was the smallest return rate among any racial group in the district. While we may not have data like this is available for every school district across the state, it certainly verifies trends we are seeing in which violence and racism is visibly impacting children. A recent study of Asian American Youth found that one in 4 had been victims of racist bullying during the pandemic.

    One immediate step to address the reported rise in violence that legislators have taken includes the creation of an Asian American and Pacific Islander Caucus.  Only meeting for the first time last week on National Day of Action and Healing to Stop Asian Hate, proclaimed by Governor Northam, this group has the potential to address root causes of this trauma at the policy level. 

    At Voices for Virginia’s Children, we are home to the Racial Truth campaign that serves to empower the voice of marginalized communities working on policy topics that address the severe effects of systemic oppression and intuitional inequality.  This is why we supported the resolution to declare racism as a public health crisis, and will continue to use both an equity and trauma lenses in all policy, advocacy, and data work we prioritize.

  6. Sounding the Alarm: New Data Reveals Impact of COVID-19 Hardships

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    Guest Blog Post Contributed by John R. Morgan, Ph.D., former Voices Executive Director and current Chewning Research Fellow at the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation

    Widening racial-ethnic disparities likely to harm children of color

    Data is accumulating showing that economic and familial hardships associated with the pandemic are experienced more acutely by Black and Hispanic families. These hardships are of the same nature as those associated more generally with child poverty; and it is clear that racial-ethnic child poverty disparities in Virginia are already substantial and persistent. The latest data available on the KIDS COUNT Data Center indicate poverty rates of 28.0 for Black children, 19.8 for Hispanic children and 8.9 percent respectively for white children.

    Children of color, already more likely to experience child poverty and its associated hardship burdens, are now faced with an extra and similarly disproportionate burden delivered by the pandemic. The most likely outcome of this doubled-up hardship burden is a worsening of pre-pandemic racial-ethnic inequities. It is also likely that these inequities will be most prominent in education and health. Looming on the horizon then is the highly likely and entirely unwelcome prospect of the worsening of already intolerable inequities which greatly disadvantage children of color, including:

    • education achievement gaps (PALS-K scores, SOL scores, SAT scores; and rates of retention, suspension/expulsion, drop-out, graduation, college acceptance)
    • inequities in health status (prevalence of asthma, obesity, low birthweight; inadequate prenatal care; food insecurity)

    Data on COVID health outcomes are of primary immediate concern. Infection rates, hospitalization rates and mortality are all substantially higher for Black and Hispanic-Latino than White populations nationally and in Virginia.

    Disparities in COVID-caused household hardships

    More recently, data from the Census Bureau’s COVID-19 Household Pulse Survey reveal that the burden of COVID-related family hardships falls most heavily on Black and Hispanic households. This disproportionate impact threatens to put at risk the long-term well-being of their children. Much of the available data is national yet it is plausible that national findings will be mirrored in Virginia to a great extent. Some prominent national indicators include:

    • 51 percent of households with children reported an adult in the household had lost employment income. (Pulse Survey August 2020)
    • 58 percent of Hispanic and 53 percent of Black households saw a loss of employment income since March, versus 39 percent of white households. (Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies)
    • 59 percent of Black households, 55 percent of Latino households, and 33 percent of white households reported it was “somewhat difficult” or “very difficult” to pay for usual household expenses. (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)
    • 18 percent of Black households, 17 percent of Latino households, and 7 percent of white households reported that their household did not get enough to eat. (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)

    The minimal state-level data available so far align with these national findings. In a recent report, the Commonwealth Institute estimated that 24 percent of children in Virginia live in a household that is not getting enough to eat or is behind on housing payments. Their analysis underscored data indicating that people of color were feeling economic hardships more acutely. For example, one of every eight Virginia workers who identify as Black, Latinx, or Asian/Pacific Islander were unemployed this summer or temporarily laid off without pay, compared to one of every 19 non-Hispanic white workers.

    It is evident, therefore, that compared to their white counterparts, Black, and Hispanic children in Virginia are more likely to be exposed to potentially harmful pandemic-related hardships. This threatens to substantially widen existing troublesome disparities and present ever-greater risk to the well-being of Virginia’s children of color.

    What makes these findings so alarming?

    There is strong scientific consensus, cited in sources above, that the economic hardships and familial stressors associated with child poverty can compromise child development and lead to troublesome outcomes. Research also identifies the parameters that influence the likelihood of such harmful effects. Risk of harm is both additive and cumulative – as the number and/or duration of hardship exposures increase, so does the likelihood of harm.

    Applying those parameters to the circumstances faced by Virginia’s children of color, alarms are sounding on both counts. As data reviewed above indicates, Black and Hispanic children are more likely than white children to be exposed to a greater number of hardships during the pandemic (as they were before the pandemic); and pandemic-induced hardships are more acute and severe for Black and Hispanic families, meaning a longer duration before they can fully recover to pre-pandemic levels. The net effect: the pandemic will widen critical Black-white and Hispanic-white disparities, especially in the health and education domains, and likely for an extended period. This will be a step backward, resulting in diminished opportunity and greater disadvantage for children of color.

    Policy implications: Will history be repeated?

    There are challenging and urgent policy implications of this potential worsening of racial-ethnic child disparities. It is imperative that policymakers address this impending harm by pursuing fiscal and policy initiatives which recognize this disproportionate risk and target responses accordingly.

    The guiding principle should be to first restore and then enhance all the pre-pandemic initiatives that were in place to reduce key racial-ethnic disparities in health and education. Every policy and budget decision in our recovery effort will therefore need to be viewed through an equity lens: does this decision recognize the unacceptably disproportionate hardship burden borne by Virginia’s Black and Hispanic children and respond in a manner that does not perpetuate or worsen their previous disadvantage?

    Voices is a member of the Fund our Schools Coalition calling to restore education funding. Fund Our Schools partner, The Commonwealth Institute, has wisely urged state decisionmakers while crafting pandemic relief plans not to repeat the upside-down school funding decisions made in response to the Great Recession. In that instance, though recession-era budget cuts had disproportionately impacted the poorest school divisions and students, lawmakers restored proportionately less – not more – funding to these divisions as state finances recovered. Lawmakers should heed the advice and avoid uniform across-the-board recovery initiatives that fail to respond to the reality of COVID-19’s disproportionate harm. Failure to do so will needlessly and callously worsen existing racial-ethnic inequities and push Black and Hispanic children even farther behind their white counterparts. On economic, social and moral grounds this would be an intolerable outcome.

    Want to read more insightful news on this topic? Sign up to receive the latest news on data trends in Virginia.

  7. 2020 Special Session Priorities

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    The last five months have been disruptive for children and families in Virginia. Children and parents are facing challenges, hardship and trauma that will impact them for a lifetime. Financial, parent, and child emotional distresses contribute to a chain reaction, which serves as evidence that, for many children, the pandemic is causing, what is often referred to as toxic stress or trauma. This involves the chronic activation of the stress response system in ways that are known to affect brain, biological, and socioemotional development.

    As leaders of Virginia, we know that you intend to keep the best interests of children in mind and that you wish to address the adverse experiences of this pandemic. To address these needs in both the short and long-term, you must prioritize the needs of children and their parents with your proposals for the state budget.

    Keep Children and Families Economically Secure and Food Secure

    A nationally representative survey, the Rapid EC project has found that 1 in 5 families with young children reported having a hard time paying for their basic expenses (food, housing & utilities) right now. And the Census Household Pulse survey shows that  families of color in Virginia are twice as likely to report insufficient access to food in the last seven days (22% of Black households and 23% of Hispanic households) than the average household.

    OUR POLICY ASKS:

    • Exhaust every resource from TANF, CARES or additional federal funds to keep families financially secure. The safety nets for families exist for crises like these to afford housing security and stability for families. Cash assistance for families will be necessary to weather additional economic downturns and to pay for unexpected expenses for child care and food in the wake of school closures.
    • Extend the moratorium on evictions. The Governor should sign an Executive Order or the General Assembly should act to halt evictions. Evictions will cause additional disruptions for families and could put children at-risk of entering the foster care system.
    • Ensure postpartum mothers can access health insurance. Extend eligibility for FAMIS Moms from 60 days to 12 full months postpartum.
    • Remove barriers to healthcare for lawfully residing immigrants by eliminating the “40-quarters rule”. 

    Keep Children and Families Emotionally Secure and Supported

    On the most recent Census Household Pulse survey 70% of parents or caregivers reported feeling nervous, anxious or on-edge more than several days in the week. The nationally representative sample of families with young children, the Rapid EC project, reported increasing anxiety   stress levels for all parents as a result of the pandemic. In mid-June anxiety levels had started to decline except for three groups of parents—economically disadvantaged parents, Black parents and families with three or more children. The compound effects of the pandemic and systemic racism on Black families should be acknowledged and addressed by Virginia leaders.

    OUR POLICY ASKS:

    • Extend telehealth and broadband capacity to continue mental health and parent coaching visits. A bright spot of the pandemic has been how quickly mental health and health care providers, as well as home visitors and those offering OT/PT and developmental services, were able to shift their supports on line. Additional funding to support broadband access as well as the home visiting and Part C support services can continue these needed services.
    • Help children access mental health care through connections to primary care by continuing the Virginia Mental Health Access Program (VMAP). Unfreeze $8.4 million to expand access to mental health services for children.
    • Meet capacity and care needs at the Commonwealth Center for Children and Adolescents (CCCA). Ongoing mental health needs will likely cause a surge in admissions in the following months. CCCA has incurred COVID-19 related expenses that remain unmet. To maintain a safe and therapeutic environment, unfreeze $1.5 million to fund additional clinical staff at CCCA.
    • Continue implementation of behavioral health system reforms: STEP-VA, Medicaid services redesign, increasing Medicaid provider rates and bringing more providers to the system through loan repayment programs.

     Support the Early Education and Care Industry

     A July survey by NAEYC found that 38% of child care providers in Virginia would close in the next six months without additional  financial support. During the 2020 Session legislators authorized $85 million to increase access to early education. To respond to current needs, those funds should prioritized and shifted to use as grants for the private child care industry to further expand a strong mixed-delivery system for early education.

    OUR POLICY ASKS:

    • Additional grants are needed to stabilize the child care industry and target community need. With schools closing or moving virtually, the child care industry has stepped up to provide safe care for families who need it. That does not come without additional costs. Child care providers should be awarded grants or contracts to serve children in low-income working families. State leadership for stabilization grants should come from the Department of Education as the new home for the unified early childhood sector.

    Support Early Childhood Educators and Caregivers

    The Center for the Study of the Child Care Workforce reports in their 2018 survey that 51 percent of the child care workforce in Virginia received public benefits. The average hourly wage for an educator in a child care facility was $9.82 in 2018. This low-wage workforce is predominately women and disproportionately women of color.

    OUR POLICY ASKS:

    • Additional funding and protections will be necessary for the early childhood workforce. These caregivers should be afforded the same access to protective equipment and testing as other frontline workers. As these caregivers put themselves and their families at risk for very low wages, additional funding should be maximized to offer hazard pay or incentives.

    Return to School and Child Care Safely

    The pandemic has created numerous challenges to implement safe, caring and nurturing learning environments for children. State leaders must, at a minimum, help ensure that children in school divisions and localities across Virginia have their basic health and mental health needs met.

    OUR POLICY ASKS:

    • To meet the unique needs of health and safety practices in educational settings the state should create a task force to provide uniform guidance for health and safety in all educational settings. And to ensure guidance is relevant to meeting the needs of children, their caregivers and educators and working parents. This task force should look at safety guidance from DSS and VDOE, consistent guidance and approaches offered by local health department, and identifying additional resources needed to implement health and safety standards, such additional school nurse positions or other community health workers.
    • As local school divisions ramp up their social and emotional supports for children and families we hope that you will restore new education funding frozen in the budget and make additional funding available specifically for student mental health needs such as teaching training, additional support staff, purchasing services in the community, or implementing new mental health support approaches or technology.

    More Supports for the Foster Care System

    The pandemic has resulted in fewer calls to Child Protective Services while families are feeling more stressed and children are more likely to experience trauma and hardship. We would like to see calls to CPS continue to stay low, as long as children’s safety and security needs are being met.

    OUR POLICY ASKS:

    • The General Assembly authorized additional prevention services funds for communities and local social services agencies to stabilize families before coming in to the foster care system. The final budget should include $15 million to provide a range of evidence based and trauma-informed services to children at risk of entering foster care.
    • Reinvest $12 million to fund community-based prevention and intervention programs – with dollars specifically allocated to funds programs targeted at communities of color.
    • Local social services staff are also frontline workers helping families to navigate these challenging times. To ensure they are supported the state should unfreeze $11 million to raise staff minimum salaries.

     

  8. Details of the Proposed House and Senate Budget Deal, Including Medicaid Expansion

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    The House Appropriations Committee shared the details of the proposed House and Senate FY19 & FY20 budget deal on May 21, 2018, before the Senate was scheduled to vote. However, on May 22, the Senate postponed its expected vote on the budget and moved to convene the Senate Finance Committee on May 29 and vote as a full Senate after that meeting. While this extends the vote for one more week, it is helpful for children’s advocates to know what was included in the budget proposal and to signal support to your state delegate and senator.

    Medicaid Expansion

    Similar to the House proposal at the end of session, the proposed budget deal includes the two-step process to cover the uninsured by seeking a state plan amendment to begin to draw down federal dollars, while simultaneously seeking a waiver from the federal government to expand Medicaid with additional eligibility requirements. This version of the budget deal includes the hospital provider assessment and invests in reimbursement increases for hospitals and improvements to the behavioral health system. Michael Martz of the Richmond Times-Dispatch provides a comprehensive look at what is included in the budget here.

    Mental Health

    The proposed budget deal includes significant investments in mental health, including these Voices’ priorities:

    • Rolling out a statewide system of alternative transportation for adults and children under a temporary detention order at $2.5 million in FY19 and $4.5 million in FY20.
    • Implementation of the STEP-VA plan to ensure a more comprehensive and consistent array of behavioral health services at each of the 40 community services boards (CSBs), including: finish implementing same-day access to services at all 40 CSBs, implement primary care health screenings at all 40 CSBs, and begin adding capacity for outpatient treatment ($15 million) and detox services ($2 million) in FY20 at some CSBs.

    State Policy Approaches for Childhood Trauma

    We are encouraged by policymakers’ interest in creating trauma-informed systems. The budget proposal includes these priorities from Voices’ policy agenda:

    Improvements to the Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI)

    The proposed budget includes a total of $11.1 million over the biennium to invest in VPI.

    • An increase of $2.3 million each year to increase the VPI per pupil rate by $201 per student
    • Funding to school divisions to help provisionally licensed teachers in VPI programs obtain their license ($2.3 million each year)
    • Additional resources for VDOE to develop a plan for quality improvement in VPI including classroom observations and student assessments
    • Additional funds to conduct classroom observations in all VPI classrooms by the end of the 2019-20 school year
    • An additional $1 million over the biennium to work with UVA CASTL to provide professional development for VPI teacher
    • Clarification that the VPI local match requirement can be met with private funds
    • Clarification of language about reallocating VPI slots to communities that use their entire allocation

    Early Childhood System Improvements

    Beyond VPI, the signature public preschool program, the proposed budget takes some steps to improve Virginia’s other early childhood systems.

    • Invests $850,000 of TANF funds over two years to strengthen Early Impact Virginia as the home visiting umbrella organization
    • Expands the scope of the Joint Subcommittee on the Virginia Preschool Initiative to include exploring Virginia Quality improvement system, Head Start and other recommendations of the JLARC report on early childhood
    • Includes a new requirement for all school divisions to participate in the Virginia Kindergarten Readiness Project (VKRP) student direct assessment by the end of the 2019-20 school year. Some of the funds for expansion include training on how to use the tool to improve instructional practices. Language also directs the VKRP to be expanded as a post-assessment given at the end of the kindergarten school year.
    • Provides $1.25 million in CCDBG funds over the two years to implement a pilot project through UVA CASTL for private and faith-based child care programs
    • Asks VDOE to work with the departments of social services, health and planning and budget to create a workgroup, facilitated by the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation, to explore leveraging and aligning existing early childhood funding streams

    In addition, the budget proposal also includes funding to support the implementation of previously enacted legislation, including:

    • Funding of $47,000 each year for staff at the Department of Health to collect data and information on the plan of services for substance-exposed infants
    • Funding for the implementation of KinGAP, financial resources for kinship caregivers when children are not eligible for other foster care placements
    • An additional $28 million in FY19 and $43 million in FY20 of non-general funds to accept the federal increase in child care assistance funds enacted by Congress in February 2018

    Contact your delegate and senator before Tuesday 5/29 asking for support of this budget proposal. Click through for a email template you can use and edit to make your own.

  9. Voices is hiring!

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    We are hiring a full-time Office Administrator! Please see the information below for details. No phone calls, please. All resumes and cover letters should go to michael@vakids.org.

    Office Administrator

    Description:

    The role of the Office Administrator is to support the Executive Director, Annual Fund Director, and other staff members as needed to fulfill the mission of the organization. The individual will serve as staff support to the Board of Directors, preparing logistics and materials for quarterly meetings, taking minutes, and handling inquiries from Board members. Individual will assist Annual Fund Director and all other staff with event planning and logistics. The individual will also provide support to the Annual Fund Director, maintaining and updating donor software, generating gift acknowledgements, and assisting with development correspondence and newsletter mailings. Duties also include independent handling of general office functions (answering the phone, handling mail, ordering supplies), scheduling for Executive Director, processing deposits. This position could include updating websites and social media if individual is qualified. The position reports to the Executive Director.

    Required qualifications:

    Bachelors degree and at least 2 years’ experience in similar work preferred; accuracy and organizational skills essential; highly motivated and able to anticipate and initiate needed tasks; proficiency in Microsoft Office products and office procedures; familiarity with donor software, DonorPerfect specifically, is highly desirable; excellent interpersonal skills; strong writing and editing skills; knowledge of and ease with social media, WordPress and other online communications preferred. EOE. Minorities encouraged to apply.

    Part/Full Time: Full time

    Salary: Commensurate with experience

    Benefits: medical and dental insurance, free parking, long-term disability and life insurance, retirement, and generous PTO.

    How to apply: Email resume and letter of interest to michael@vakids.org. No phone calls please.

     

     

  10. FAMIS: A Success Story That’s in Jeopardy

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    ***UPDATE*** 1/6/15    Sign on letter for organizations supporting extension of funding for FAMIS

    FAMIS, the public health insurance program for low-income families, along with Medicaid, has helped reduce the number of uninsured children in Virginia by 24% from 2008 to 2013. Comprehensive, child-centered benefits and affordable cost-sharing with families make FAMIS an effective means of ensuring that children in low-income, working families grow up getting the preventive and primary health care they need to thrive. Both Republicans and Democrats have championed this public health success for kids in Virginia.

    Without action by Congress, however, funding for the entire Children’s Health Insurance Program (which we call FAMIS in Virginia), will expire at the end of September 2015. If this happens, it will be left up to each state to take over the entire cost of insuring these children (the federal government currently covers 67% of the cost) or discontinue the program, leaving an estimated 104,000 Virginia children without insurance. It is unlikely Virginia would take over full financing of the program, as the federal assistance is built into the FY15-FY16 state budget, and the Commonwealth already faces a deficit.

    Loss of the FAMIS program would essentially double the number of uninsured children in the Commonwealth. According to a new report released today by the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, “Children’s Coverage at A Crossroads: Progress Slows,” 5.4% of the Commonwealth’s children, or more than 101,000 kids, remain uninsured.

    “Without a renewed commitment to children’s health coverage, we are concerned that the progress we’ve made for children will stall,” said Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families. You can listen to a Virginia News Connection story about the report here.

    In Virginia, Gov. Terry McAuliffe has already taken action to increase outreach efforts to low-income families throughout the state. As part of his September 2014 Healthy Virginia report, Gov. McAuliffe announced additional funding to reach families who may be eligible for FAMIS but are not aware of the program, or who need help applying. According to the Department of Medical Assistance Services, this outreach has already begun in Southwest Virginia, an important area to target since 22% of the uninsured kids in Virginia live in rural areas.

    Child advocates must focus on educating Congress about the importance of refunding CHIP before the program expires. This will ensure that Virginia’s low-income working families do not lose the comprehensive health coverage they now have for their children. Voices is partnering with the Virginia Oral Health Coalition, the Virginia Poverty Law Center, The Commonwealth InstituteVirginia Organizing, and many others to advocate on this issue. Stay tuned for details on how you can take action!

    Would your organization like to join the coalition? Contact Ashley Everette at ashley@vakids.org.