Tag Archive: Senator Emmett Hanger

  1. House and Senate Budget Items!

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    This past Sunday, February 8th, the House and Senate money committees released their budgets. The great news is that both the House and Senate prioritized funding for children’s mental health services– a positive step in strengthening our mental health system for children.  Here is what they did:

    Children’s Crisis Services

    The House fully funded our requested amendment, patroned by Delegate Yost, for an additional $2.5 million to expand the system of community-based crisis response and child psychiatry.  The Senate budget included an additional  $1 million to increase support for child psychiatry and children’s crisis response services, patroned by Senators Howell and Hanger.

    This funding will build upon the base of $4.65 million in FY16 the legislature has provided the last three years to expand access and enhance services in all five health planning regions of the state. We know that these services are making a huge difference in the lives of children with serious mental health challenges and additional funding will increase capacity across the commonwealth.

    Additional Staff at the Commonwealth Center for Children & Adolescents

    The Senate included an additional $281,894 GF to hire a few additional Direct Care positions at the Commonwealth Center for Children and Adolescents (CCCA), the only public inpatient psychiatric hospital for children in Virginia. The CCCA has seen a dramatic increase in admissions in 2014 and funding for additional staff is necessary to meet the demand.

     If you’d like to read the Health and Human Resources Subcommittees’ reports, click here for the House and click here for the Senate.

    Once the full House and Senate each pass their own budget and reject the other chamber’s budget, a conference committee will be named to work out the differences. We will keep you updated on the budget and opportunities for advocating with the budget conferees.

  2. 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.


  3. How far has children’s mental health treatment come? What’s still needed?

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    Campaign Coordinator Margaret Nimmo Crowe was asked by the Staunton News-Leader to write a commentary column about the changes in children’s mental health to run alongside a news article about the history of the DeJarnette buildings in Staunton. These buildings formerly housed a “state sanitorium” but now stand empty. You can also see a timeline of the changes in the DeJarnette facility and the founding of the Commonwealth Center for Children and Adolescents.

    Here is Crowe’s commentary column:

    Children’s Mental Health System Improves, but Unmet Needs Remain

    Given the reports of the Dejarnette Center’s disturbing history, the phrases “caring and compassionate staff,” “unwavering support,” and “the staff …saved my daughter’s life!” seem like they cannot possibly describe the same place.

    Actually, these are direct quotes from former patients and their parents about the care they received at the Dejarnette Center in the 1990s and more recently at its replacement for children, Commonwealth Center for Children and Adolescents.

    Moving from a history of shameful treatment of people with mental illness to providing intensive, life-saving psychiatric treatment shows just how far the children’s mental health system has come. The focus has shifted from the isolation of institutionalization to the integration of community-based treatment. Advances in scientific research about children’s developing brains and effective therapies have taught mental health professionals much about treating these disorders so that these children can reach their potential.

    The problem, however, is that the knowledge about treating children’s mental health disorders is not made available to all who need it. As many as 100,000 children and adolescents in Virginia struggle with severe mental health disorders, but as few as 20 percent actually receive the help they need.

    The array of treatment options needed by children with serious conditions is inadequate in every community in the Commonwealth. Particularly glaring is the lack of access to child psychiatrists and community-based crisis response services that can help children avoid hospitalization.

    Fortunately, the 2012 General Assembly – with the leadership of local legislators Sen. Emmett Hanger, Del. Steve Landes and Del. Dickie Bell – began to remedy this failing by allocating $3.275 million over two years for crisis response and psychiatric services for children in three regions of the state. This is an important advancement for the children’s mental health system, but it is only a start.

    Virginia must commit to expanding these types of services to the entire state so that children can be treated effectively where they live. It is much less expensive to treat children with mental health conditions than to ignore them and pay for the all-too-frequent consequences of untreated mental illness: school drop-out, homelessness or incarceration.

    As we continue to improve mental health treatment for children, we must publicly promote their potential for recovery. Unlike in the past, when we shunned these children, today we must recognize that they – like all children – deserve to be treated with dignity. We can send the clear message that we value their lives and their potential by adequately caring for their mental health needs.

    Then, all children in the Commonwealth with mental illness could relate to this quote from young man who was treated in one of Virginia’s state hospitals as a teenager:  “During the short period I was there I was given something that I would have never thought possible: hope. The staff members were incredible in their ability to show me that I wasn’t alone and that I could get better.”


  4. Legislative Forum: Staunton/Augusta event highlights need for mental health services

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    “’It’s always the cost. It’s always about money,’ Bell said. ‘We never talk about the real needs of children with mental health issues. What’s the cost to society if we don’t find the money?'” Delegate Dickie Bell at the August 9th legislative forum in Staunton, as quoted in the Staunton News Leader.

    On Thursday, Aug. 9th, Campaign for Children’s Mental Health Coordinator and Voices Policy Director Margaret Nimmo Crowe spoke at a legislative forum on mental health needs in the Commonwealth, sponsored by the Valley Community Services Board and advocacy group Mental Health America of Augusta (Executive Director Donna Gum pictured above with Margaret Nimmo Crowe). The forum was “headlined” by talks from Delegates Steve Landes and Richard “Dickie” Bell, both representing areas of the Shenandoah Valley. Holly Herman, legislative aide for Senator Emmett Hanger, also gave comments.

    On behalf of the Campaign, we focused comments on recent increases in intake and readmission rates for the nearby Commonwealth Center for Children and Adolescents can be indicative of the need for increased and better-equipped community-based services, so that even when children with mental health needs require hospitalization, their home communities are well-prepared to support them upon release — which can sometimes decrease hospitalization times and often prevent readmission.

    We also reminded legislators and other attendees of the benefits to children provided by the Affordable Care Act, most especially provisions that eliminate refusal of insurance based on pre-existing conditions and those that eliminate annual and lifetime limits on insurance coverage. These caps can often hamstring families whose children require extensive (and often expensive) mental health treatment, or multiple hospitalizations within the same calendar year.

    Especially notable was Delegate Bell’s expression of support for increased mental health care for Virginia’s children. Delegate Bell conveyed his commitment to advocating for this issue, one he called ‘very close to his heart’. He also lauded the Campaign’s efforts in advocated for much-needed state funding this 2012 session for mobile mental health crisis response teams and additional child psychiatry supports. Senator Hanger’s aide Holly Herman also expressed the Senator’s strong support for this funding, and his critical role in the outcome.

    You can find a good overview of the forum from the News-Virginian here.

    The Staunton News Leader also covered the event, and you can read its coverage here.

    The News-Virginian’s editorial board also echoed Delegate Bell’s call for expanded children’s mental health resources in an excellent editorial here.

    Thanks to all our Campaign advocacy partners in Staunton/Augusta for this opportunity for citizens to hear from their legislators about the critical issue of mental health services.