Virginia provides funding for behavioral health system

State to commit $485 million in federal and state funding to address pressing challenges

Virginia provides funding for behavioral health system

Virginia is looking to address pressing challenges in the state’s behavioral health system.

The government is committing $485 million in federal and state funding to alleviate pressure on state mental health hospitals, strengthen community-based services and increase support for substance abuse treatment and prevention programs.

“Every Virginian should have access to the behavioral health care and treatment they need, either in their home communities or in a state-operated facility,” said Virginia Governor Ralph Northam.

“The pandemic has led to increases in depression, anxiety, substance use disorders and other mental health issues in Virginia and across the country, which has added to the strain on our behavioral health system and the valued people who work within it. This funding package is a down payment that will significantly increase support for our state hospitals, community-based providers and substance abuse prevention and treatment programs so they can best help those who rely on their services.”

The funding includes state and federal funding from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) and the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act. It is broadly focused on state mental hospitals, community-based services and opioid and substance abuse treatment.

Seventy per cent of employers report mental health challenges among their employees and 52 per cent report substance misuse or addiction, according to a previous report.

The funding package has nearly $200 million for staffing at state behavioral health facilities and intellectual disability training centers. This includes $45 million to continue staff bonuses and an additional $154 million in the two-year budget Governor Northam will submit in December for salary adjustments.

This is essential as Virginia’s mental health hospitals have faced high census levels for a number of years and the pandemic has made the situation more challenging, according to the government.

The funding also includes $150 million to increase access to community-based crisis services and child and family support services, and provide dispatcher training for the Marcus Alert program, a new statewide mental health alert system designed to ensure behavioral health experts are involved in responding to individuals in crisis.

Another $5 million dollars will be dedicated to providing permanent supportive housing in Northern Virginia to assist with bed shortages.

The announcement is part of “Investment Week,” during which the governor and legislative leaders are highlighting proposals for allocating the $4.3 billion in ARP funding available to the Commonwealth in advance of the Aug. 2 special session.

Mental health initiatives are increasing in face of COVID-19, according to a previous report.