Seal of the Governor
For Immediate Release: December 14, 2023
Contacts: Office of the Governor: Christian Martinez,

Governor Glenn Youngkin Unveils Youth Mental Health Strategy on the One Year Anniversary of Right Help, Right Now Initiative

Announcing $500 million in additional Right Help, Right Now funding

RICHMOND, VA – Governor Glenn Youngkin joined behavioral health leaders, community partners and families who have struggled with behavioral health challenges in Richmond this afternoon to mark the accomplishments of the first year of the Right Help, Right Now (RHRN) behavioral health transformation plan in Virginia, outline next steps and funding for RHRN, and announce his Youth Mental Health Strategy.  

On the one-year anniversary of the Right Help, Right Now plan, the Governor announced $500 million in new funding for the continued transformation of our behavioral health system, including the expansion of school-based mental health services. Additionally, the Governor outlined a Youth Mental Health Strategy and legislative package that would limit the addictive elements of social media platforms to protect children and empower parents with information and resources to best care for their children 

"After a year of implementing critical changes in our mental and behavioral health system through my Right Help, Right Now plan, we are forging ahead with additional RHRN funding and a Youth Mental Health strategy to assist and support our next generation of Virginians," said Governor Glenn Youngkin. It’s clear that young Virginians face a myriad of challenges ranging from addictive social media platforms to an increasingly dangerous opioid epidemic to mental health challenges and we need to offer support. Our new Youth Mental Health Strategy will work to protect and support our young people from predatory practices online while also empowering families with new tools to support their children’s mental health.” 

“The goal of Right Help, Right Now is to support Virginians before, during, and after a behavioral health crisis occurs. During the first year of this initiative, we have advanced key elements of the infrastructure needed to ensure that there is someone to call, someone to respond and somewhere to go in a mental health or substance use crisis,” said Secretary of Health and Human Resources John Littel. “Year two of this transformation aims to ensure that families have more information about threats to children’s mental health as well as tools to support their children.” 

After a year of the Right Help, Right Now plan, some of the incredible progress includes: the continued growth of the 988 suicide and crisis lifeline system through a marketing campaign, the launch of a behavioral health reserve corps of volunteers, awarded funding to build emergency room alternatives, expanded waiver slots for individuals with developmental disabilities on the priority one waitlist, and additional compensation for targeted state hospital staff.  

“This is just the start of the work we are doing to transform our behavioral health care system,” said Nelson Smith, Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services. “We’ve seen tremendous progress over the last year as we have continued to build our crisis continuum of care, expand community-based services, strengthen our workforce, and modernize our systems. This was the result of a lot of hard work and creative and collaborative thinking by staff from across our system and state government.”  

Youth Mental Health Strategy 

To better equip parents and support our young people, Governor Youngkin is taking immediate action in year two of Right Help, Right Now. In 2023, according to Mental Health America, Virginia ranked 48th in the nation for youth mental health, which demands a collective and comprehensive approach to prioritize the health of the Commonwealth's youngest and most vulnerable citizens. Children spend on average nearly five hours daily on social media; recent studies have suggested that children who spend more than a few hours per day on social media have double the risk of poor mental health. Through budget proposals, legislation and executive action the youth mental health strategy will address critical components and harmful aspects of social media on our youth. 

To address addictive and harmful aspects of social media on youth: 


  • We will protect minors from TikTok’s predatory influence in the Commonwealth of Virginia.  


  • We will protect the privacy of all children under 18 years of age from social media companies by banning targeted advertising to children, selling children’s data, or creating a marketing profile of a child without parental consent.  


  • We will prohibit social media companies from using addictive practices, designs, or features, such as auto-playing videos, gamification, and virtual gifts, on children.  


  • We will give parents the ability to implement guardrails on minor’s social media use and limit social media companies from disrupting teens’ sleep by knowingly or intentionally keeping children on their phones.  


Inside our schools:  


  • We will expand eligibility for school-based mental health services to students across Virginia using a waiver and provide technical assistance and support to localities that provide matching funds and wish to utilize these services.  


  • We will require school divisions who monitor student Internet use to disclose what activity is tracked and monitored, obtain parental consent, and notify parents when a safety alert is issued.  


  • We will expand the behavioral health workforce in schools and other community settings.  


  • We will increase access to care by providing funds for tele-behavioral health for children in grades 6-12, with their parents’ permission, as well as in our public colleges. 


In behavioral health care settings: 


  • We will ensure that Virginia families have the right to be in close physical proximity to a relative during a medical, mental health or substance use emergency and provide the relative with previously prescribed medications.  


  • We will empower parents with the right to consent for their child to receive inpatient psychiatric care and choose where their child receives inpatient psychiatric care, and exclude minors from code-mandated state psychiatric treatment. 


Year 2 Right Help, Right Now Budget Priorities 


Governor Youngkin proposed $500 million in new funding for his biennium budget. This is a giant step forward when combined with the funding appropriated in the last budget—bringing the commitment to nearly $1.4 billion, including:  


  • $307 million to provide 3,440 waiver slots, a slot per person on the Priority 1 Waitlist   


  • $23 million to expand access to school-based mental health services for children, including telehealth 


  • $46 million to meet the three-year target of emergency room alternatives, such as crisis receiving centers and crisis stabilization units, and publicly funded mobile crisis response teams to ensure that people have someone to respond and somewhere to go in a crisis 


  • $10 million for partnerships with hospitals to build specialized emergency rooms for psychiatric patients called comprehensive psychiatric emergency programs  


  • $23 million to ease law enforcement burden, including expanding alternative transportation 


  • $58 million for building a best-in-class behavioral health workforce through salary increases in state hospitals, behavioral health loan repayment, and more clinical training sites and residency slots 


  • $28 million in opioid abatement and response initiatives including a campaign to reduce youth fentanyl poisoning, wastewater monitoring, naloxone availability, and services for those with substance use disorder  

We will continue to transform our behavioral health system in a way that will positively affect generations to come. The Youngkin administration is committed to doing our part to make Virginia an even better place to live, work and raise a healthy family. 

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