Virginia vows $76m to fight opioid addiction, to improve mental health treatment
Breaking News Mental Health Opioid Addiction Policies Dec 12, 2017
Virginia vows $76m to fight opioid addiction, to improve mental health treatment

In an effort to fight the opioid epidemic from all quarters and improve Virginia’s existing mental health treatment facilities, Governor Terry McAuliffe has allocated $76 million in his annual budget for the financial year 2019-2020. While mental health funding will cost a total of $57.8 million, the rest is reserved for prevention of opioid epidemic. The announcement was made on Dec. 11, 2017.

Elaborating the budget provisions, Governor McAuliffe said, “During my term as governor, our team has worked hard to make Virginia a leader in fighting the opioid epidemic that is raging in communities across Virginia and the entire country… Addiction and mental illness are diseases, not moral failings.”

The funds allocated for mental health services in the state would cover the expansion of supportive housing for adults with serious mental illnesses, implementation of primary care screening services, launch of specialized programs for counseling veterans and expansion of mental health court dockets, among others. Additionally, the budget proposal for opioids would include creating residential programs for offenders suffering from opioid addiction, supporting permanent supportive housing for pregnant women with substance use disorders and creation of additional controlled substances forensic scientist positions and funding of existing scientists, among others.

State’s drug and mental health crisis

As per the recent survey by Mental Health America (MHA), Virginia stands at number 40 in terms of higher prevalence of mental health issues and lesser access to care. An estimated 1,137,259 to 1,497,870 adults in the state have some mental illness with approximately 239,750 to 305,000 adults suffering from a serious disorder. Suicide rates have increased in the state with it becoming the 11th leading cause of death among residents and the third leading cause of death among individuals aged 10 to 24.

Given the state’s existing mental health crisis propelled by the failure to provide timely treatment to those suffering and lack of spending on mental health services, the new initiative should bring in some hope for the distressed people who will be able to enjoy better health facilities. It will also encourage other people to speak about their troubles openly without the fear of being stigmatized and marginalized.

Virginia is also plagued by fatal drug overdoses that increased by 38 percent between 2015 and 2016. According to the health officials, the jump has been attributed to abuse of heroin, fentanyl and other opioids. In 2016, drug overdoses claimed at least 1,420 lives in Virginia and became the leading cause of unnatural death in the state, surpassing motor vehicle accidents and gun-related incidents.

Though the statewide figures concerning drug overdose are bleak, the nationwide statistics are quite disheartening. Despite the efforts by local states and federal government, the number of overdose deaths continued to climb in 2016 claiming nearly 64,070 lives. While the allocation of $76 million towards improving behavioral health and controlling drug abuse is a welcome step, it remains to be seen how effective it will prove to be.

Hooked Sober is a source of information on drugs, alcohol, eating disorders and mental disorders. Please send your questions, concerns or comments to [email protected] or speak to a representative at (866) 838-4087.

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