Gov. Northam announces $485M funding for Virginia’s behavioral health system


RICHMOND, Va. (WFXR) – Gov. Ralph Northam has announced that the Commonwealth is committing $485 million in federal and state funding to address ongoing challenges in Virginia’s behavioral health system.

The plan includes targeted investments to alleviate pressure on state mental health hospitals, strengthen community-based services and increase support for substance abuse treatment and prevention programs.

The announcement is part of “Investment Week,” where the Governor and leaders in Richmond are highlighting proposals for allocating the $4.3 billion in American Rescue Plan (ARP) dollars available to the Commonwealth ahead of the Aug. 2 special session.

“Every Virginian should have access to the behavioral health care and treatment they need, either in their home communities or in a state-operated facility. The pandemic has led to increases in depression, anxiety, substance use disorders, and other mental health issues in Virginia and across the country, which has added to the strain on our behavioral health system and the valued people who work within it. This funding package is a down payment that will significantly increase support for our state hospitals, community-based providers, and substance abuse prevention and treatment programs so they can best help those who rely on their services.”

Gov. Ralph Northam (D-VA)

The $485 million investment includes state and federal funding from the ARP and the CARES Act and is focused on three key areas:

  • State mental hospitals
  • Community-based services
  • Opioid and substance abuse treatment

Virginia’s mental health hospitals have faced high census levels for a number of years and the pandemic has made the situation more challenging.

The funding package has nearly $200 million earmarked for staffing at state behavioral health facilities and intellectual disability training centers – which includes $45 million to continue staff bonuses and an additional $154 million in the two-year budget that Gov. Northam will submit in December for salary adjustments.

The proposal also includes $150 million to increase access to community-based crisis services and child and family support services, and provide dispatcher training for the Marcus Alert program – a new statewide mental health alert system designed to ensure behavioral health experts are involved in responding to individuals in crisis.

An additional $5 million will be dedicated to providing permanent supportive housing in northern Virginia to assist with bed shortages.

The plan also allocates $103 million for opioid and substance abuse treatment services.

In 2020, Virginia saw nearly 2,300 deaths as a result of overdoses – a 41 percent increase from the prior year and 2021 is projected to be even higher. The funding will aid in community-based prevention, peer counseling and harm reduction services.

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