New Virginia budget boosts mental health services, Chesterfield to host first mental health resource fair

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Posted at 10:56 PM, May 13, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-14 08:55:43-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- On Monday, Governor Glenn Youngkin signed a budget compromise, a two-year spending plan that gives more funding to public schools, pay raises for teachers and government workers, and keeps Virginia’s tax policy as is.

Mental health services will also get a big boost in spending, in a bipartisan effort to combat the mental health crisis impacting thousands of Virginians across the state.

Virginia Senator Creigh Deeds, (D - Charlottesville) who’s been fighting for mental health access in the wake of his son’s tragic 2013 death, says the budget prioritizes mental health services with nearly two billion in increased funding to create a stronger workforce, more crisis stabilization and resource centers around the state and mental health programs in schools.

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Creigh Deeds

“There’s been such a terrible stigma built up around mental health that prevents people, prevents parents, prevents families, prevents individuals from seeing problems,” Deeds says. “What we’ve focused on the last several years is making sure that the children in school settings have the ability to identify those problems they may see in their own behavior or their friends’ behaviors and hopefully be able to reach out and help.”

With Governor Youngkin’s “Right Help, Right Now” campaign, education outreach is already a strong focus and is expected to gain ground with increased funding.

On Tuesday, May 14, Chesterfield County will hold its first mental health resource fair at the Midlothian Library from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., thanks to a partnership between both public and private non-profit mental health organizations.

“With the launch of our 988 initiative, the national number, people are learning how to reach out for help in a crisis,” says Melissa Ackley, prevention service manager with Chesterfield’s Mental Health Support Services. “With our fair, what we’re excited about is let’s reach out before that. Just like we do with a medical crisis, right? We don’t have to wait to stage four, let’s get things earlier and we know that’s going to have a more powerful effect.”

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Melissa Ackley

The Cameron K. Gallagher Foundation, an organization known for its Speak Up programs and outreach in schools, also plans to hold a Mental Health Awareness Day on May 14 at the organization’s headquarters in Scott’s Addition. The event is planned from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.

While Senator Deeds says mental health is becoming a priority, he says there’s more work to be done, especially in rural areas.

“We still need to make sure that we have the right services in the right communities,” Deeds said. “Part of what we’ve been able to do for a number of years is trying to raise the floor to make sure the services are available everywhere in Virginia.”

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