The death of State Senator Creigh Deeds’ son, who severely wounded his father before taking his own life in the midst of a psychiatric crisis last year, put a spotlight on Virginia’s mental health system. The event stimulated debate about the adequacy of the state’s mental health policies and was a major factor in improvements and increased funding adopted in the 2014 session of the General Assembly.
In this article by Mira E. Signer, executive director of the Virginia office of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), she writes about the status of mental health policy in the Old Dominion. In her view, state leaders have not fully addressed the needs of Virginia’s community-based mental health network.
According to Signer, Virginia needs to shift its mental health focus from a crisis-driven, institution-heavy system to one that sponsors early intervention services and long-term recovery.
A key issue unresolved by the General Assembly is the possibility of expanding health care coverage to uninsured adults by expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. “The impact of the proposed plan on adults with mental illness, as well as the mental health system, would be extraordinary,” Signer writes.
In addition, she observes that one of the most important actions policy-makers can take is to ensure that there is a uniform level of services statewide in the mental health system.