Mental Health Advocacy Update

We were glad to partner for Mental Health Advocacy Day again this year, working with Voices for Virginia’s Children, NAMI Virginia and VOCAL in a major presence for mental health at the Virginia General Assembly on January 25th. Over 100 people attended! A few pics can be found here.

This year could signify major improvements in how Virginia provides mental health care. Mental Health America of Virginia and our local MHA affiliates are supporting many initiatives that will improve our system of care. The Governor and both legislative chambers agree on most of the reforms that passed the midway point of the legislative session last week. For brief information on the differences in budget proposals, see the 2/12 /2017 Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Although difficult at this point, we remain hopeful funds will be allocated to implement standard mental health screening and assessments in all Virginia jails, and to provide staff for the Board of Corrections to conduct meaningful investigations of deaths while in jail custody.  The bills are currently before the House Committee on Appropriations, and might be heard in the public safety subcommittee this Thursday morning at 10:00 a.m.

 Thank you for your support for mental health!

MHAV is part of a coalition of mental health advocates and other organizations that are educating Virginians about our concerns with sentencing to death those who have a severe mental illness. This “exclusion” would not apply to whether someone is guilty or not guilty, only to whether he or she is eligible for the death penalty as opposed to life without parole. Virginia already excludes people with intellectual disabilities from the death penalty. Excluding those with SMI would simply treat these individuals the same way that we already treat people with intellectual disabilities. Such a change would affect only a very small percentage of cases, but is important for consistent due process. For more information, please visit the Virginia Alliance for the Severe Mental Illness Exclusion

2017 Policy and Legislative Priorities

Increase Access to Mental Health Care

All Virginians with mental health issues deserve access to timely, appropriate, affordable services as early as possible. MHA affiliates in Virginia work for expanded access to mental health care for Virginians of all ages – whether they are insured, underinsured, or uninsured – in both the public and private sectors.

  • Eliminate waiting lists through “same day access” throughout the state. Now in place in only a few localities, streamlined appointment protocols are getting good results. More people are getting services earlier, when their symptoms are treated more effectively, and agencies are using their resources more efficiently.
  • Use incentives to encourage greater mental health coverage by providers of all types, including tele psychiatry, and to integrate health and mental health services in the community.

Provide Appropriate Diversion from the Criminal Justice System

Too many Virginians who need mental health services are instead arrested and incarcerated in our jails and prisons, often with tragic results. All localities should screen for diversion at the earliest stage of the criminal justice process. For those who are confined, services must be timely, professional and based on individual needs.

  • Support jail diversion for people accused of crimes for whom voluntary mental health or substance use treatment is a reasonable alternative to confinement.
  • Support increased transparency and a clear process of accountability for the mistreatment of anyone with a mental illness while in local or state custody.
  • In capital cases when death or life in prison are the sentencing options, exclude from eligibility for the death penalty those who suffer from serious mental illness at the time of their crime.

Expand Peer Support and Peer Run Programs

Peer support provides a valuable addition to the mental health care delivery system. With quality training a person of lived experience and recovery can assist others in the recovery process. Peer support is recognized as an evidence-based approach to mental health care that reduces crisis relapse and increases successful community engagement. Medicaid has approved a process for reimbursing mental health peer support in 2017.

  • Public and private agencies throughout the continuum of care should include peer support to help improve access and deliver positive outcomes.
  • Government and private insurance should support services provided by Certified Peer Recovery Specialists in health care, supportive housing, employment, criminal justice and other settings.

MHAV is looking for Recovery Education Facilitators!

MHAV is seeking qualified Peer Recovery Specialists to co-facilitate one or more of the agency’s recovery education trainings in different parts of Virginia during 2017-2018.

The mentally ill need a voice and most times unfortunately it can’t come from their loved ones but thankfully it can from agencies such as yours. Thank you.- Anonymous