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Behavioral Health Commission Sets Preliminary Course for 2024

After an initial organizational meeting of the full Behavioral Health Commission in May, which included a preliminary discussion of its 2024 workplan, the Commission’s Executive Committee met on June 3 to refine the proposed set of studies for the year and adopt a preliminary study plan to recommend to the full Commission.  The full Commission will act on the proposed workplan at its meeting on June 12.

As recommended by the Executive Committee, the Commission will address the following topics this year:

  • Tracking current efforts on health care workforce programs: As part of the Commission’s ongoing charge to map current initiatives in behavioral health, staff will collaborate with the Joint Commission on Health Care (which is conducting a study of all health care workforce programs, to include behavioral health programs), as well as with the Virginia Healthcare Workforce Development Authority, and provide a report in December.
  • Tracking current efforts on crisis services implementation: As another element of the Commission’s work to document current initiatives, staff will develop a map of efforts to develop the state’s crisis services system.  Budget language directs the Secretary of Health and Human Resources to report on the use of funding appropriated during the 2023 and 2024 General Assembly sessions to expand and modernize the state’s crisis services system.  A report is scheduled for December.
  • Reporting on system metrics: Staff plans to continue quarterly updates on key metrics, to include additional data points such as the use of private psychiatric hospital beds.
  • Program monitoring: Staff suggested that the Commission develop a rolling list of programs to be evaluated, which would allow staff to work continuously on these efforts without requiring formal direction via the adoption of a new workplan each year.  Further discussion of this plan is scheduled for September.
  • Monitoring and evaluation of Permanent Supportive Housing: Staff plans to evaluate the effectiveness of this program in improving long-term outcomes, with a report planned for October.
  • Law enforcement interactions with individuals with mental illness and other disorders: Legislation to provide an affirmative defense to prosecution for assault or assault and battery for individuals whose behaviors resulted from mental illness or neurocognitive disorders was vetoed by the Governor, and the Disability Commission referred the issue to the Behavioral Health Commission.  Staff suggested that additional research into other states’ statutes would be unlikely to change the outcome of legislation and proposed instead to determine to what extent law enforcement officers receive adequate training in interacting with individuals in crisis and what barriers might be impeding adequate training.
  • Alignment of civil admissions laws and processes with crisis system: Legislation enacted in 2024 directs the Commission to study how best to align current civil admissions statutes and processes with the delivery of services in the crisis system.  Staff plans to provide an interim briefing in November and a final report in fall 2025.
  • STEP-VA implementation: Staff explained that the data and metrics needed for a full evaluation of STEP-VA are still being developed.  Budget language directs the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services to report to the Commission, among other entities, on the changes to STEP-VA performance measures and benchmarks that are anticipated to be included in Community Services Board performance contracts.  The Department is also required to conduct a needs assessment for each of the nine service components of STEP-VA, as well as a cost estimate for these unmet needs.  Both reports are due by December 1.  Commission staff anticipate using the data and metrics that are developed this year to begin conducting oversight of the programs beginning in 2025.

VACo Contact:  Katie Boyle

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