Seal of the Governor
For Immediate Release: December 16, 2022
Contacts: Office of the Governor: Christian Martinez,

What They Are Saying: Governor Glenn Youngkin Announces Transformational Behavioral Health Plan

RICHMOND, VA Leaders in Virginia reacted to Governor Glenn Youngkin's transformational behavioral health plan announcement.

“We've heard your pain and frustration. We are making a determined effort to invest and expand crucial services, especially before a behavioral health struggle becomes a crisis,” said Lieutenant Governor Winsome Earle-Sears. 

"Not a week goes by without our Commonwealth seeing the consequences of an overwhelmed behavioral health system,” said Attorney General Jason Miyares. “Our mental health crisis has created a strain on individuals and their families and is impacting public safety, education, drug addiction, child protection and the foster care system, our workforce, and so much more. Law enforcement continues to deal with an increase in the amount of time they are waiting with individuals under Temporary Detention Orders at hospitals, which has kept them from patrolling the streets and not being able to react to crime. I applaud the Governor for tackling this issue and setting out to make Virginia’s behavioral health infrastructure one of the best in the nation.”

“Virginia’s need to expand emergency behavioral health services is a common thread through far too many of the tragedies in our Commonwealth’s recent history. I look forward to working with the Governor and his team to refine and improve this effort to make real, meaningful improvements to Virginia’s mental health system,” said Speaker Todd Gilbert. 

“We have an historic opportunity to make substantial advancements for people who depend on behavioral health services throughout Virginia. I’d like to thank Governor Youngkin for taking this critical action and I am looking forward to working with my colleagues to ensure people have access to all the services they need in every corner of the Commonwealth,” said Senator Emmett Hanger.    

“Reform is needed in order for us to address Virginia’s mental health challenges, and it’s long overdo. Building a sustainable, innovative, and accessible behavioral health infrastructure is the first step towards the shared goal of meeting the needs of Virginians, and I look forward to it starting today,” said Senator Siobhan Dunnavant. 


“I am pleased to see 988 now in place, increases in mobile crisis capacity, and more crisis stabilization options. Building out the crisis system will ultimately help people avoid the need for involuntary treatment and will relieve law enforcement from the burden of long waits in the emergency departments with patients. This is one area where there is significant bipartisan support and I look forward to working with Governor Youngkin on this effort,” said Senator Barbara Favola.     

“Our behavioral health crisis in Virginia needs bold action. I commend the Governor, the Secretary of Health and Human Resources, and the Commissioner of DBHDS for stressing the importance investing in prevention and stabilization services. I look forward to working with my colleagues to fund these critical investments,” said Delegate Sam Rasoul.  

“Our law enforcement community has stepped up to the plate as our behavioral health infrastructure has cracked at the seams. Our behavioral health workers have worked tirelessly to assist those in crisis. Today, the reform we have so desperately needed comes together as we fund meaningful innovation and support access to mental health resources. This step is deeply meaningful for Virginians who have needed a lifeline of support — and with Governor Youngkin’s plan we intend to create sustainable infrastructure that meets the needs of those in crisis,” said Delegate Emily Brewer. 

“NAMI Virginia is excited to learn more about the six pillars identified to improve the effectiveness of Virginias behavioral health system. Although NAMI Virginia has limited information at this time, the six pillars appear to build upon one another. This provides encouragement that an advanced system of care to meet the needs of all Virginians may finally be forthcoming. The first pillar is crucial; same day access to crisis care. Same day access eliminates barriers and allows immediate access to essential mental health services. Subsequent pillars such as pillar three, build system capacity, and pillar five, prioritize the behavioral health workforce, are crucial to seeing pillar one and other pillars become a reality. NAMI Virginia applauds the Youngkin administration for prioritizing mental health in the Commonwealth and for acknowledging that a revamp of Virginias system is needed,” said Kathy Harkey, Executive Director of NAMI. 

“The Virginia Association of Community Services Boards is looking forward to working with this administration to build capacity and supports for individuals with behavioral health and developmental disability service needs and welcomes the sustained and targeted attention that the Governor can bring to bear on systemic issues, including workforce, crisis care and routine but essential community-based care,” said Jennifer Faison, Executive Director, Virginia Association of Community Services Boards. 

“Improving our mental health system is priority, and substantial investment in community care is essential if people are to access the support they need to stay well,” said Bruce Cruser, Executive Director, Mental Health America of Virginia. 

“We applaud the Governor for recognizing the importance of investing in and removing barriers that constrain access to behavioral health services for Virginia’s most vulnerable residents,” said Mindy Carlin, Executive Director of the Virginia Association of Community-Based Providers. “On behalf of private-sector providers, which are delivering 80-90% of all Medicaid behavioral health services, we look forward to continuing to be a part of the solution to ensure those in need of services are able to receive them from quality providers as efficiently and effectively as possible.” 

“We applaud Governor Youngkin for focusing resources on these critical areas to ensure behavioral health patients have access to care. We must strengthen and expand our health care workforce and address staffing shortages through initiatives such as those proposed today. Equally important are innovative treatment approaches that provide Virginians in crisis with the treatment they need when they need it. We look forward to working with the Governor, his Administration, the General Assembly, and other stakeholders to make these proposals a reality,” said Sean T. Connaughton, Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association President and CEO. 

“The Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program established at Carilion Clinic with support from the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services has had positive outcomes for adult and pediatric patients and for system capacity by redirecting individuals to outpatient treatment, which also has the benefit of helping avoid admissions at state psychiatric hospitals. The prospect of expanding these successful models at other hospitals is welcome news indeed,” said Dr. Anilla Del Fabbro, Carilion Clinic System Director for Emergency Psychiatry. 

"Virginia’s physicians have been in the forefront in addressing the significant behavioral health crises faced by the Commonwealth’s citizens of all ages and their families. While we have been working hard to help our patients, there is always more to do. We are always looking for new approaches and innovative thinking to increase our abilities to provide more care given the increased needs. We are privileged to be included in this effort and look forward to working with Governor Youngkin, patients, and other stakeholders so we may improve the lives of all Virginians,” said Dr. Harry Gewanter, President, Medical Society of Virginia. 

“We look forward to working with the Governor to improve the behavioral health system. This is a top issue for our members, and we recognize that improvements in the system are needed to help Virginia families in crisis,” said Dean Lynch, Executive Director, Virginia Association of Counties.

“Lack of adequate mental health resources has reached a crisis level. As Virginia's safety net, emergency departments are overwhelmed because patients have nowhere else to go,” said Todd Parker, President of the Virginia College of Emergency Physicians. “We appreciate Governor Youngkin prioritizing mental health and getting patients the resources they need before they get to the ER, while they are in the ER, or once they leave the ER. Together, we can ensure patients get the mental health care they need in the right place at the right time.” 

“Virginia’s psychiatrists appreciate that Governor Youngkin is making mental health care access and system reforms a priority. We look forward to reviewing his proposals and working with him to ensure more patients have timely access to psychiatric care and supportive services,” said Dr. Kara Keuthan Beatty, President, Psychiatric Society of Virginia. 

“We commend the Governor and the legislature for investing to improve services for individuals struggling with mental illness and addiction,” said Doug Gray, Executive Director of Virginia Association of Health Plans. 

“The Virginia Sheriffs' Association looks forward to continuing to partner with Governor Youngkin and his administration to address the significant behavioral health crisis in Virginia. These efforts are long-overdue and will get law enforcement back to their public safety duties, and most importantly, enable Virginians get the help they need when they are experiencing mental health struggles,” said John Jones, Executive Director of the Virginia Sheriffs Association. 

“It is so refreshing to hear the Governor's specific action plans to address Virginia's behavioral health crisis. This plans makes law enforcement feel less alone in our attempts to serve those we truly aren't equipped to serve. It is going to take time to build this system, but I believe this Governor has the commitment do it. Finally we aren't just talking about solutions, we are acting on them,” said Sheriff Alisa Gregory, Henrico. 

“Virginia's mental health system has failed to keep up with the growing demand for services, creating transportation responsibilities that have exhausted our law enforcement resources. Providing prompt bed placement for persons in mental health crisis is the first of many steps towards fixing Virginia's problems. Our police chiefs welcome the efforts of the Governor's administration to improve and expand mental health services in the Commonwealth,” said Dana Schrad, Executive Director, Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police & Foundation. 

“This investment package from Governor Youngkin focuses on several of the specific challenges behavioral health providers regularly deal with: staffing, crisis services and emergency department alternatives, substance use disorder, and capacity considerations. As Chair of the VHHA Behavioral Health Committee, it is my sincere hope that the General Assembly looks favorably on these proposals and policy solutions,” said Kurt Hooks, PhD, LPC-S, MPH, CEO of Virginia Beach Psychiatric Center. 

“As the only statewide advocacy organization made up of and led by, people with developmental disabilities, their families, and allies, we have long recognized and advocated for transformative change in Virginia's behavioral health system. Today we are grateful to see prioritized funding towards eliminating the waiting list for services for the over 3,000 people with developmental disabilities in the most urgent need. The Governor’s stated goal of eliminating the Priority One Waiting List by the end of his term is a significant, and crucial, component of long-term systemic stability. Investment in provider business capacity will be necessary to meet these needs, and funding for the slots is the key first step necessary to get services to the Virginians that need them,” said Tonya Milling, Executive Director, The Arc of Virginia. 

“We are very grateful for the Governor’s ongoing support and for the dedication of Secretary Littel and Commissioner Smith in creatively attempting to solve these longstanding issues,” said Jennifer G. Fidura, Consultant, Virginia Network of Private Providers. 

“Many thanks to Governor Youngkin and Secretary of Health & Human Resources John Littel for their leadership and $230 million investment in Virginia‘s mental health system. We welcome their strategic approach and that the plan builds on the substantial work in progress of the Deeds commission and General Assembly,” said Deborah Oswalt, Executive Director of Virginia Health Care Foundation. 

“Recovery is about hope, about believing things can change. With that in mind, VOCAL is hopeful that the Governor’s plan will focus on funding community-based services and centralize, across the spectrum of services, the experience of individuals with mental health conditions. Virginia often focuses on managing and funding short-term solutions to situations that have become crises instead of addressing and funding long-term solutions to systemic issues. Most of those solutions lie in community-based services. In the long run, by being crisis- rather than solution-oriented, we end up paying for increased emergency room usage, unnecessary police intervention, understaffed/overtaxed behavioral health workforce, and the costs accompanied by these conditions. Worse, we sometimes pay with the lives of those experiencing a mental health crisis. When people speak about mental health challenges, it is often framed as “it could be your child, your sibling, your neighbor.” What needs to be added is it could be you. We are not “other.” More than 1.2 million Virginians live with mental health conditions. And many of us live productive and fulfilling lives in recovery. By transforming the behavioral health system and addressing systemic issues, you improve people's lives and health, increase the workforce, and strengthen the economy. Virginia will have more thriving, healthy citizens,” said Heather S. Orrock, Executive Director, VOCAL Virginia. 

“We are encouraged by this transformative plan and meaningful investment into our behavioral health system. There is no doubt that this will plug the holes and improve service delivery for Virginia’s most vulnerable children and families, including those involved with foster care. This plan represents recommendations from a diverse array of stakeholders, policy makers and community members who dared to dream bigger and bolder for our system. We look forward to seeing those dreams become a reality for children and adults across the Commonwealths,” said Stephanie Lynch, Executive Director, Virginia's Kids Belong. 

“Optimizing behavioral health care involves a continuum of care with inpatient, intensive outpatient, crisis stabilization, substance use, and community-based treatment options that fit the unique needs and circumstances of the patients we serve. It is something we are doing at Riverside and it is exciting to see the Governor’s proposal offers meaningful investments to support an array of specific, patient-centric services,” said Stacey Johnson, LCSW, MBA, President of Riverside Behavioral Health Center. 

“Thank you to Governor Youngkin for prioritizing children's mental health and understanding the urgency to overhaul our entire mental health system. Children and adolescents must be able to receive care. It is critical to invest in our workforce that serves young people and improve their access to crisis-response services, outpatient therapy, and school-based mental health services,” said Rachael Deane, Executive Director, Voices for Virginia's Children. 

“The Virginia Sheriffs Association applauds Governor Youngkin on this bold and necessary initiative. This effort places a priority on people in crisis and addresses a critical law enforcement need. The sheriffs look forward to working with the General Assembly to secure passage,” said Sheriff Fred Clark, President, Virginia Sheriffs Association and Sheriff of Halifax County. 

“I appreciate Governor Youngkin's approach and commitment to the mental health crisis. This plan is not just a step in the right direction, it is a leap forward for the many disciplines involved in the mental health process while focusing on the end user, the individuals who suffer from mental illness. I applaud the Governor and his team for listening to those who deal with this crisis and formulating a plan to address the issues in a strategic way,” said Sheriff Michael “Mike” Mondul, Danville. 

“On behalf of the more than 118,000 nurses in the Commonwealth of Virginia, we applaud Governor Youngkin for his serious commitment to supporting the nursing profession. These proposed investments to increase the capacity of our nursing schools and grow the workforce will ensure that our citizens are cared for while relieving Virginia's frontline nurses who have been stretched too thin. We look forward to working with the General Assembly this session to preserve these nursing workforce investments in the final budget,” said Janet Wall, CEO, Virginia Nurses Association. 

“The Chickahominy Indian Tribe commends Governor Youngkin for taking bold action to combat the mental health crisis we see throughout Virginia. This reform is long overdue and it will take the commitment of everyone involved to make sure this behavioral health redesign is accessible and sustainable for all communities. We trust that the Governor will continue to keep his promises to ALL Virginians,” said Chief Stephen Adkins, Chickahominy Indian Tribe. 

“The Upper Mattaponi Indian Tribe applauds Governor Youngkin and his administration's commitment to removing the stigma around mental health and prioritizing access to such services for all Virginians. Substance abuse and mental health affect every community no matter the religion, race, or creed. We look forward to the advancements that will come over this three-year journey. It won't over happen right away, but we are grateful that the needle has greatly jumped in the right direction. As Chief of the Upper Mattaponi Tribe, I realize the mental health crisis is one of the tribe’s major concerns and I am so happy to see this extra effort to help combat this dilemma that effects so many families,” said Chief Frank Adams, Upper Mattaponi Indian Tribe. 

“For far too long, Virginian's have been in crisis with no where to turn. I appreciate Governor Youngkin's commitment to improving the behavioral health system by expanding services to those who need it most. These efforts will address the immediate needs of our communities, but will also ensure that these solutions are long term and will be around for years to come,” said Chief Gerald “Jerry” A. Stewart, Chickahominy – Eastern Division. 

“VLSSE looks forward to the implementation of the Right Help, Right Now initiative which will help bolster services for our clients with mental health challenges including children in foster care experiencing mental health crises,” said Rebecca Morgan, Virginia League of Social Services Executives. 

“VARR is excited to see the Governor's focused effort to further support Virginians who struggle with mental health and substance use disorders. Recovery is possible with the right kind of support and we look forward to Virginia furthering their focus on recovery support services and mental health,” said Anthony Grimes, Director of VARR. 

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