Mental healthcare just received a crucial albeit limited boost in the state of Virginia. The General Assembly of the Virginia legislative body this past month, led by Senator Creigh Deeds (D-Bath), instituted several reforms in mental healthcare, which included extending the amount of time allotted to find a psychiatric bed for anyone with a need; funding for a real-time online registry of aforementioned beds; and requiring state mental health facilities to provide a “bed of last resort”, where if you need a psychiatric bed, one will be guaranteed one in the state of Virginia. Furthermore, Sen. Deeds also secured approval for a four-year in-depth study of the state’s mental health system, which will keep mental health on the legislative agenda in Virginia for some time.
House Bill 293, introduced by Senator Rob Bell (R-Albemarle), also states that when someone is officially ordered to be put into psychiatric care and a clinician cannot find an alternate bed in a private facility, the person will be brought to the state mental hospital. The hospital must admit the person requiring psychiatric care.
It is a crucial step in not only addressing the needs of a vulnerable population in Virginia but increasing the likelihood of Virginia accepting Medicaid expansion. These new rules will enable more people with mental health conditions to seek care, which will require more resources and that will put more emphasis on paying mental health workers better wages while creating more positions to accommodate this increased need. With more resources, there is more responsibility and more need for a larger, well-coordinated workforce to address the needs of this vulnerable population. Both disability rights and worker rights groups can come together and rally over a cause that would serve the interests of both parties: getting quality care for all people with mental health conditions from a well-compensated and conscientious workforce.
If you are interested in addressing these issues in your community and in the nation at large, Caring Across Generations (CAG) is working at the intersection of senior rights, worker rights, and disability rights. While the Virginia reforms are more short-term, the long-term view of Senators Deeds and Bell point towards the long-term care and support of people with mental health conditions and disabilities as a major topic in policy over the coming years. One of CAG’s major focuses is the attainment of long-term care and support of people with disabilities and senior citizens alongside rights and benefits for the workers who support them. CAG’s Policy Pillars include “Support for Consumers and Families”, which emphasizes the need for quality care that is respectful and comprehensive to the needs of the people receiving care and support, and “Job Quality”, which focuses on paying the workers fairly and creating safe workspaces while not financially burdening the people receiving care. CAG seeks to change culture and policy in regards to the long-term care and support industry to the benefit of all involved.
To learn more about Caring Across Generations’ work on the relationship between senior rights, disability rights, and direct care worker rights, please visit their About Us page.