Advancing children’s health care is a priority at CHoR – whether it be through the care we provide directly to children in Central Virginia or in our efforts to improve care for all children through our education, research and advocacy programs. CHoR’s Advocacy Committee participates in a variety of advocacy efforts each year, including legislative efforts supporting important health care initiatives related to children’s health and safety. Kendall Lee, Associate Director of VCU Government Relations, shares some of the exciting progress made related to children’s health during the 2015 Regular Session of the Virginia General Assembly, which concluded February 27:
This year, CHoR asked Virginia General Assembly Members to support prevention services and expand access to provide the best health care for Virginia’s children and families. We are happy to say that Virginia’s lawmakers did just that. The final budget conference report offered a few notable gains for children’s health.
Continued expansion of community-based crisis response services for children and child psychiatry services
Meeting with legislators and supporting community efforts like the Campaign for Children’s Mental Health, advocates for children’s health across the Commonwealth secured an additional $2 million for children’s crisis response services and child psychiatry. In 2013 and 2014, each of the five health planning regions of the state (led by the designated community services board) initiated or expanded services to improve access to community-based care. The additional funding will allow the community services boards to serve more localities within the five regions by expanding access to these vital services to many more children throughout the Commonwealth. Faculty and staff at the Virginia Treatment Center for Children (VTCC) at CHoR are strong supporters of this funding initiative through their efforts. The Children’s Mental Health Resource Center of the VTCC provides rapid consultation to pediatricians on child mental issues dramatically reducing wait times for assessment and treatment. Through the Commonwealth Institute of Child and Family Studies, the VTCC provides Virginia a unique mechanism to measure program quality and outcomes in child mental health. Having proven successful in educating child and adolescent psychiatrists who serve the Commonwealth, working with pediatricians, and providing families additional supports to help their children manage mental health disorders, funding for community-based services was crucial.
Increased funding for Early Intervention
Each year, CHoR serves thousands of Virginia’s children who need medical, as well as developmental, services to begin learning and growing with a higher chance of success. Recognizing the need for continued investment in services for infants and toddlers with developmental delays and disabilities, advocates secured a $605,000 funding increase for the Commonwealth’s Part C Early Intervention Program. The additional state funds allocated by the Governor and the General Assembly for the end of 2013 and for 2014 made a significant difference in helping Virginia’s Part C system recover from the significant budget shortfalls and noncompliance with federal requirements experienced in 2013. Local systems resumed outreach efforts to identify children in need of services and those local systems that had cut services in 2013 are now serving all eligible children. Looking ahead, the system is still growing and remains stressed. Unless funding keeps pace with growth, Virginia runs the risk of falling back into noncompliance, which puts federal funding at risk and results in children and families not getting the supports and services they need in a timely and effective manner. This year’s additional investment in early intervention is more than just a moral and funding imperative; it’s smart government. Early intervention services reduce educational costs to our society by minimizing the need for special education services as children with disabilities reach school age.
CHoR advocates will continue to work with Members of the General Assembly, Governor McAuliffe’s Administration and the community at large to keep children’s health a priority in the Commonwealth. Lawmakers will reconvene on April 15, 2015, to take up any bill amendments or vetoes by the Governor.
Interested in getting involved and advocating for children’s health and safety issues as part of the CHoR Advocacy Committee? Email Laura Carter with your name, mailing address and e-mail address.