Below are four recommendations for mental health funding priorities.
Mental Health of America Augusta (MHAA) urges the Virginia Legislature to fund programs and services to divert and prevent individuals from entering the criminal justice system. We also encourage the funding of mental health services within the jails. Approximately 35% of the population at Middle River Regional Jail report having mental health problems. The Male and Female mental health pods at the Middle River Regional Jail have a capacity to serve a total of 30 inmates. While the daily census changes, there are approximately 700 inmates in the jail. This means that only a small portion of the population who have mental health needs, receive intensive services. MHAA challenges the Legislators to not only fund the clearly needed services within the jail system, but also to fund programs that will prevent those with Substance Abuse and Mental Health Disorders from entering the system. Defunding the Club house program and the substance abuse programs has left the seriously mentally ill and those in need of substance abuse treatment without local services. The societal cost to incarcerate individuals, far exceeds the societal cost of prevention and diversion.
Mental Health of America Augusta (MHAA) urges the Virginia Legislature to fund Mental Health Specialists at the Virginia community colleges. Through partnerships with the community services boards, Virginia’s community college students could obtain needed services. Currently, there is a mental health crisis among the college students. Unfortunately, the community college system is not funded to address this problem.
Mental Health of America Augusta (MHAA) urges the Virginia Legislature to fund services directed towards the mental health needs of young people. There is a critical shortage of professionals who are qualified to provide psychiatric services, individual and family therapy and school-based interventions to children and youth. It is vital that funding marked to alleviate the shortage and address the needs be provided.
Mental Health of America Augusta (MHAA) urges the Virginia Legislature to fund increased salaries for the State Hospitals and Commonwealth Center for Children and Adolescents direct care staff. There is a critical shortage of direct care workers at the state hospitals. These shortages are due to low pay and harsh working conditions. Direct care staff salaries are lower than McDonalds. Direct care staff need training to work effectively in these intense environments. Hiring low skill workers does not encourage retention. Locally, the Mental Health two-year degree program at BRCC could impact the shortage if the pay was reflective of the skills and abilities of these recruits.
Read more about why each priority is justified utilizing position statements from the national Mental Health of America, our parent organization.
Dr. Robin Hawks
Advocacy Chair MHAA