Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell has released the final two-year budget proposal of his term, and it includes $38 million of additional funding for mental health services. While that's a start, advocates say that it will take more than that to build an effective mental health system in the commonwealth.
McDonnell's proposal would provide funding for community and crisis mental health services. But for Mira Signer, the executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Virginia, while the $38 million is significant, the actual impact it will have on specific programs is unclear.
"It's a start. But it's going to take a little bit of time to really analyze and get a good hold on exactly what the impact will be," she says.
State Senator George Barker, who works on mental health issues, says the General Assembly voted to expand services after the 2007 mass shooting at Virginia Tech, but that was scaled back during the recession. Barker says that since then, lawmakers have been working to increase funding for a range of services bit by bit.
"What we're clearly going to have to do long term is to improve the outpatient mental health services significantly and work with individuals and their families so they're in a better position to manage themselves," he says.
Barker says he expects the General Assembly to expand on McDonnell's proposal during the legislative session in January.