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Vocal Virginia Advocacy Update: March 8, 2024

Thank you all for your advocacy throughout the General Assembly session. Because of your involvement with the legislature, and because of the time you have taken to make your voice heard, we continue to make progress on mental health policy in Virginia. It is important that we maintain our enthusiasm for change even after the General Assembly adjourns sine die (or for the regular session 2024) on Saturday, March 9.

 

There are several bills still pending that we hope to see cross the finish line with Governor Glen Youngkin’s signature. The first bill we ask that you advocate for is Delegate Simon’s HB81 (to view click here), which abolishes the common-law crime of suicide. This bill has passed the House and the Senate and will be sent to the Governor’s desk in the coming days. Senator Pillion’s SB6262 (to view click here) and Delegate Price’s HB1269 (to view click here), both barrier crimes bills, are still moving through the legislative process and we expect the bill that emerges from conference committee will be sent to the Governor’s office for this signature. We also support Delegate Willett’s HB1242 (to view click here), which allows individuals close to a person in crisis to be present for emergency custody order and temporary detention order evaluations as long as the person present does not pose a risk to the person in crisis. This bill has passed both chambers of the General Assembly and is on its way to the Governor’s office. Please also ask the Governor to support Delegate Hope’s HB313 (to view click here) and Senator Favola’s SB178 (to view click here), both bills require the Inspector General to submit a report detailing their plans to address instances of abuse and neglect in state hospitals.

 

Regarding budget items, Vocal Virginia continues to support the proposed general fund allocation of $ 3,433,525 in FY2025 and $3,302,053 in FY2026 to establish and operate two new peer wellness stay programs and to support the continued operation of the peer wellness stay program site operated by the Mt. Rogers Community Service Board. Known nationally as “peer respites,” peer wellness stay programs are peer-run and help provide an alternative to hospitalization for peers experiencing difficulty or finding themselves near crisis. See line “SS” in the Budget Bill Item 297 in the Governor’s proposed budget here.

  

We also support the proposed budget language to remove administrative barriers and increase access to peer support services. This budget language authorizes the Department of Medical Assistance Services (DMAS) to “adjust caseload limits for peer recovery specialists to align with the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS) and the Department of Health Professions (DHP) and revised policies to reflect the need to operate within a crisis or emergency room setting. DMAS shall ensure that any provider caseload limit increase does not have any adverse impact on quality of care or program integrity.” See line “VVVV” Item 288 in the Governor’s proposed budget here.

 

To view a complete list of bills Vocal Virginia has been tracking, please click here.

 

To contact the Governor’s Office, please click here.

 

To find your legislator’s contact information, please click here.

 

If you have any questions regarding any of the topics addressed in this advocacy update, please feel free to email Vocal Virginia at network@vocalvirginia.org.



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