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Proposed Plan Better Funds VA Mental-Health Programs


Monday, January 16, 2023   

A recently proposed plan has been devised to better fund Virginia's mental-health programs.

The new Right Help, Right Now plan calls for $230 million in funding for upgrades to the state's mental-health system.

Some elements of the plan include expanding mental-health programs in schools, growing tele-behavioral health operations in high schools and college campuses, and creating more than 30 mobile crisis centers.

However, some feel the plan is a good start with more to be done.

Bruce Cruser - executive director of Mental Health America in Virginia - said in the past, more money has been put toward hospital care than community care. Although this plan changes that dynamic, he outlined what else needs to be addressed in the state's mental-health landscape.

"What we don't see there is funding for the Community Services Board's employees," said Cruser, "and they're really the front line of care in the community to help prevent people from having to go into the hospital. And so, what we'd really like to see is some additional funding to make up the ground for the Community Services Board, the direct care staff."

The plan finds 106 of Virginia's 133 counties are classified as having a mental-health professional shortage.

Cruser said the COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated existing flaws in Virginia's mental-health system. This resulted in less people being able to get the help they needed.

While he said it's fortunate to see the attention this plan is creating, he noted that it's a shame it took years of crisis to reach this turning point.

Although the plan has great support, Cruser also noted that there will be challenges to implementing this plan. Specifically, he noted that the pay rate from insurance or Medicaid needs to be increased.

But, Cruser said he feels there are two elements of this plan which ensure people won't always end up in hospitals for behavioral-health issues.

"The mobile crisis and the crisis receiving centers would help build up that continuum of care in the community so that people don't have to end up going to the hospital," said Cruser, "They can get the care they need, they can get the crisis resolved, they can find the services that they need in the community with much better outcomes."

He added that this would boost the state's mental-health system a lot.

Over the Virginia General Assembly's next legislative session, Cruser said he is eager to see this proposed plan become a package of legislation that'll advance the state's mental-health system.

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