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A judge ordered him to get counseling as a kid. Why he calls funding in Virginia budget 'great step forward'

Youngkin: 'May the funds be used to press Virginia forward in an unprecedented way'
Demario Adkins
Posted at 5:53 PM, Sep 14, 2023

RICHMOND, Va. -- Demario Adkins knows full well what getting help can mean. When he was a young person, circumstances he said he got himself into led to a moment that set his life path in a new direction.

"I went through a whole lot as a kid," Adkins said. "I did get in trouble and had to face a judge as a kid, and that judge told me I had to get counseling services. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be the man I am today.”

Demario Adkins
Demario Adkins

Today, Adkins runs Behavioral Health Services of Virginia, one of several agencies that stand to expand services thanks to tens of millions of dollars the amended state budget sends toward Virginia's mental health system.

“I think this is a great step forward," Adkins said, after watching Gov. Glenn Youngkin sign the amended budget on the front steps of Virginia's Capitol.

Both Republicans and Democrats celebrated the budget deal following months of drawn-out negotiations that happened behind closed doors.

"May the funds be used to press Virginia forward in an unprecedented way," Youngkin said before signing the budget bill.

Youngkin signs Virginia budget
Gov. Glenn Youngkin signs Virginia budget on Sept. 14, 2023.

The budget's $1 billion in tax reductions are mostly through one-time tax rebates of $200 for individuals and $400 for joint filers. The budget also raises the standard deduction, removes the age requirement for a military retiree tax benefit and reinstates a popular back-to-school sales tax holiday that lawmakers forgot to renew. While the holiday typically takes place in August, it will be held this year in late October.

The budget also boosts K-12 education spending by about $650 million and funds behavioral health initiatives sought by Youngkin, including new crisis receiving centers and crisis stabilization units.

The spending plan includes funding for an extra 2% raise for state workers starting in December, and money for the state’s share of a 2% raise for state-supported local employees, including teachers. The combination of tax cuts and increased spending is possible because the state had accumulated a multibillion surplus.

You can read in more detail about the budget deal here.

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New Virginia budget includes sales tax holiday, taxpayer rebate

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3:09 PM, Sep 14, 2023

"When it comes to behavioral health and getting Virginians the right help, right now, and right now is when they need it, we’re making a significant first step," Youngkin said.

Behavioral health initiatives in Virginia will receive about $155 million in new funding from the state to create crisis receiving and stabilization centers, permanent supportive housing and housing for individuals with serious mental illness, and funding for additional mobile crisis teams.

"A lot of people need these services, a lot people need mobile crisis. The immediate response keeps the hospitals clear," Adkins said.

BHSV plans to expand their number of mobile crisis teams from three to ten, Adkins said. There are times, he said, that they receive calls about someone in crisis and cannot send a team because they are already working with other patients.

"We try to do our best as an agency to support as many people as we possibly can, but it’s a lot more help that we need," Adkins said.

Demario Adkins
Demario Adkins

Overall, Adkins hopes the new funding will help attract more people to the profession of helping out others in a crisis or in a bad spot with their mental health.

“We have staffing shortages in the state right now. There’s not enough qualified mental health professionals," Adkins said. "A lot more people will have access to these services. Because it’s underfunded, we don’t have enough teams out here working.”

You can learn more about behavioral health services available across Virginia here.

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