Gov. McAuliffe calls for additional funding for mental health services in jails

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RICHMOND, Va. – Governor Terry McAuliffe wants to provide additional funding from the state budget to address mental health services in local jails, according to a letter he wrote to General Assembly Budget Conferees.

McAuliffe said another one of his “highest priorities” is to provide resources for the Board of Corrections to conduct reviews and investigations of major issues in local and regional jails, including inmate deaths.

The request comes almost a year and a half after 24-year-old Jamycheal Mitchell’s body was found inside the Hampton Roads Regional Jail. A lawsuit says he withered away in jail and died from wasting syndrome.

A judge’s order that would have sent Mitchell to a state mental health facility had been sitting in a file drawer for weeks before his death.

A Portsmouth judge ordered Mitchell to Eastern State Hospital for mental health treatment two times. A state investigation revealed the second order on July 31, 2015 made it to the hospital admission coordinator, but she never placed Mitchell on the waiting list. Mitchell was arrested in April 2015 for stealing $5 in food from a Portsmouth convenience store. The investigation into Mitchell’s death was completed in early December. Mitchell’s family filed a $60 million lawsuit.

McAuliffe also asked for additional resources to strengthen Virginia’s election process and restoring support for solar and bioscience research.

Read the full letter here:

Dear Chairman Hanger, Chairman Norment, and Chairman Jones:

I want to express my sincere thanks to each of you for your efforts and dedication to the citizens of the Commonwealth. I commend you for your hard work and commitment to prudent and sound fiscal planning, which is reflected in both the House and Senate versions of the proposed budget.

I appreciate the priority that your amendments place on keeping our fiscal house in order by maintaining conservative revenue estimates and by not raising the revenue forecast. This commitment, along with establishing a Revenue Cash Reserve to guard against short-term revenue shocks, will help to ensure that the Commonwealth has the cash on hand to address potential negative impacts from sequestration, hiring and pay freezes for the federal civil service, the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, or other federal actions.

As I have stated on many occasions, I continue to be proud that we can work together and find common ground on issues that are important to the citizens who elected us to solve problems and improve their lives. Going into this session, compensation for our hard-working state and state-supported local employees was at the top of our priority lists. I am pleased that the House and the Senate have agreed upon a compensation package for state employees that demonstrates our commitment to them. While each chamber has chosen its own method for addressing teacher compensation, I applaud both for keeping our teachers in the mix for discussion during conference.  I look forward to seeing how you ultimately will reward these dedicated public servants in the final budget.

I am especially pleased to see that we agree on the need to protect public education from any programmatic reductions in funding. Public education is the backbone of a growing economy and our collective actions have demonstrated its priority and our shared commitment to protect public education from the effects of slow revenue growth.

Likewise, I thank you for agreeing to include additional funding for mental health services.  The needs in this area are significant and we have just begun the process of reforming our system.

There are other examples of where we have found common ground and protected core services; however, there are a few areas where we do not have consensus. I have limited my requests to those issues that are my highest priorities, and have focused my guidance on specific amendments in your respective budgets.  The attached document outlines the details of these issues.  In addition, my Secretaries will be contacting you about other issues that I ask you to consider in your conference deliberations.

My highest priorities include requests to provide additional funding to address mental health services in local jails, and to provide the resources for the Board of Corrections to conduct reviews and investigations of major issues in local and regional jails, such as the death of an inmate.  In addition, given the experiences of the most recent election, I think we can agree that we need to strengthen our elections process. To effectively address existing deficiencies in these areas, we will need the additional resources that I initially proposed. I ask that you reconsider my original budget amendments.

I also know we share the goal of building a new Virginia economy. For that reason, I ask that you reconsider your actions and restore support for growing and emerging economic opportunities in the Commonwealth, especially in the areas of solar and bioscience research.  Further, I have been clear and consistent in my message to you, the education community, and our citizens that we must grow a workforce that can take advantage of the opportunities in the burgeoning cybersecurity industry. The jobs are there, and the economic benefits to our Commonwealth will be real with every job that we fill.

In 2016, Virginia experienced the highest number of work related fatalities in over a decade. The Virginia Occupational Safety and Health Program not only handles inspection and compliance, but provides businesses with training and education in order to prevent incidents that have tremendous social costs and impact a company’s bottom line. Funding positions to enhance training and ensure compliance is critical for both employers and employees in the Commonwealth.

Again, I applaud your support for the vast majority of my proposals.  The priorities I have outlined in this communication were central to the amendments I introduced in December and they remain priorities for me today. I realize that you will need to rearrange your spending priorities in order to support my requests to grow our economy in proven areas that we know will return dividends, and to protect the mentally ill who are incarcerated. There are several areas that should be considered as you deliberate these spending priorities including, but not limited to, the additional funding for the Jamestown/Yorktown Commemoration and GO Virginia.

I recognize that budgets are the product of collaboration and compromise.  Achieving the desired result requires that we work together and communicate.  We have enjoyed the shared successes that come from a commitment to such a process. As we approach the end of the session, I am confident that we can continue to operate in the best interest of the citizens of the Commonwealth. Let us work together to further align this budget with our mutual goals.

Sincerely,

Terence R. McAuliffe