RICHMOND, VA '' Virginia House of Delegates Republicans today committed to improving mental health services by continuing their efforts to restructure the delivery of mental health services. Key components of this restructuring include support of funding the replacement of four aging and obsolete facilities that provide services to citizens under the Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse Services, while also allowing community-based providers to enter into joint agreements to better enable them to administer services to area residents. Delegates Phillip A. Hamilton (R-Newport News), Del. R. Steven Landes (R-Weyers Cave), Del. Samuel A. Nixon, Jr. (R-Chesterfield) and Del. Vincent F. Callahan, Jr. (R-Fairfax) made the announcement.
"Virginia has long struggled with finding the right balance between the need for and funding of community and facility care for individuals with mental disabilities in Virginia," Del. Hamilton said. "While House Republicans have made a sizeable financial commitment to build additional community capacity, there still remains a need for the state to maintain critical mental health institutions. In our desire to transform our care for mentally disabled persons from a facility-based system to a community-based one, we cannot forget that our state facilities still play a vital role in our system of care. House Republicans understand this need and will continue working to supply important services to the people who need them most."
The lawmakers announced they would support funding in the state biennial budget for ongoing efforts to replace two existing hospitals ' Western State Hospital in Staunton and Eastern State Hospital in Williamsburg ' and two existing mental retardation facilities ' Central Virginia Training Center in Madison Heights and Southeastern Virginia Training Center in Chesapeake. The existing facilities face a number of severe difficulties, including substandard health and safety conditions, building code violations, and unmet maintenance needs. Where possible, Republicans plan to use innovative approaches to fund the projects, such as using the Public-Private Education Facilities and Infrastructure Act to form public-private partnerships resulting in a savings of taxpayer money.
"These are critical infrastructure needs for the people of the Commonwealth," said Del. Landes, whose district includes Western State Hospital. "We believe we can build more efficient facilities that will ultimately conserve resources and provide better care. House Republicans remain dedicated to significant upgrades to the care to individuals in our state facilities."
"This is the right time to take this approach," said Del. Callahan, Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. "In this time of great revenue growth in Virginia, we believe investing in one-time capital projects is the fiscally prudent course to take. The House Appropriations Committee has long recognized the need to continue efforts to improve patient care, operate state facilities in an efficient and effective manner and reinvest savings in community services."
Additionally, Del. Nixon has submitted legislation (HB774) that will enable Community Services Boards and Behavioral Health Authorities to better provide mental health services to local residents. Under this legislation, the agencies will be able to enter into joint agreements with each other to allow them to take advantage of economies of scale, joint purchasing and other efficiencies.
"Community-based care has improved in Virginia, but there is more that we can do," Del. Nixon said. "This legislation will help these community-based organizations improve care at the local level at the same time they are saving the taxpayers money."
Pictured (L to R) Republican GOP Delegates Landes, Hamilton, Nixon and Callahan.