Youngkin official calls for overhaul of mental health services | State and Area News

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Virginie is new Transformation DirectorSo far, his work has focused on speeding up unemployment insurance benefits and reducing DMV wait times — and now he’s looking at an overhaul of state mental health services.

In a report to Governor Glenn Youngkin and the chairs of the General Assembly Finance Committees, Transformation Director Eric Moeller said he would allocate $1.3 million to the Department of Behavioral Health and Social Services. development for this redesign effort.

He is seeking proposals on the structure and operation of mental hospitals in Virginia – the department operates eight for adults and one for children and adolescents.

For decades, advocates, state legislators, and even some state officials have complained that Virginia is spending too much of a limited mental health budget in hospitals and not enough in community services.

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But the political challenge of closing large institutions each with hundreds of employees has limited the state’s options.

More recently, Virginia’s “bed of last resort” law and surge in patient numbers after courts referred people accused of crimes to them, filled some state hospitals to capacity, and in some cases beyond.

Moeller also wants to examine how the behavioral health department delivers regional services, as well as the work of the 40 community service boards, which the state and local government jointly fund.

Councils are responsible for delivering services in communities – from responding when individuals threaten to commit suicide to providing outpatient services to running group homes to setting up teams of doctors, d nurses and social workers who make daily or even more frequent visits to people with illnesses so serious that otherwise they would have to be hospitalized.

Virginia’s underfunded mental health system has challenged lawmakers and governors for decades.

A joint General Assembly committee has been digging into mental health system challenges and pushing reforms through the legislature for eight years.

So far, his efforts include laws to end the “streeting” of people with mental illness, that is, giving up on finding hospital beds for those in crisis.

Another law pushed by the commission tries to ensure that access to intensive care does not depend on where a person lives.

This law requires all CSBs to provide nine essential services, including same-day assessment for people with significant mental health issues, crisis services, primary care screening and outpatient services.

Pressuring the legislature to fully fund this effort and address the chronic and growing shortage of direct care workers has been another major effort of the commission.

‘Fearing there hasn’t been a lot of discussion on the administration plan,’ said Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath, who launched the Legislature commission after his son’s suicide when he could not find a place for crisis care.

“Earlier this year the commissioner informed me that they were considering a decentralization plan, but I was not made aware of the specifics,” Deeds added, referring to the commissioner of the behavioral health department.

State Sen. Monty Mason, D-Williamsburg, another member of the commission, said he worked hard to change Virginia’s mental health spending split, now at 70% for institutions and 30% for the community, to be more like the rest of the nation, where the split is more like 30% for hospitals and 70% in the community.

“It’s always good when a governor is interested,” he said. “I just hope they read the reviews and the work we’ve done, and not try to start from scratch.”

Moeller’s overhaul proposal, meanwhile, will also focus on the department’s services for people with developmental disabilities.

Virginia closed all but one of its institutions for these people and increased funding for community supports.

It did so to address the US Department of Justice’s findings of civil rights abuses by keeping people in more restrictive situations than necessary.

Moeller’s report also details plans to spend nearly $2 million on a two-phase effort to improve how the state procures goods and services, with the goal of ensuring “quick-win savings.” .

The plan includes $1 million for a consultant to help outline a strategy for the Virginia Economic Development Partnership and $300,000 for a pilot program to develop common tools and language for employee performance improvement plans. of State.

It is also seeking to allocate a total of $870,000 for follow-up work to improve customer service and reduce the amount of manual document processing at the employment commission.

There will also be follow-on work in the Department of Motor Vehicles to improve customer service, improve management tools and reduce operating costs.

Additionally, it wants to use $1.3 million to create a pool of project management experts who can be dispatched to help agencies with high-priority programs.

Youngkin created the position of chief transformation officer in an executive order in January, to “drive changes that improve the effectiveness and efficiency of our government by tracking key performance indicators.” The officer serves in the governor’s cabinet.

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