After the second mass shooting in Virginia in as many weeks that left seven people dead midday Wednesday, Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin said Wednesday his administration plans to introduce a bill in the General Assembly this winter to strengthen mental health resources.
While offering few details to reporters following an annual Thanksgiving ceremony, Youngkin said his program would provide more resources, address staffing issues and recognize that people experiencing mental health crisis need same-day processing.
“It’s extremely important,” Youngkin said. “We know we’ve been through a mental health crisis and we need to take very immediate action.”
Lt. Governor Winsome Earle-Sears said in a statement Wednesday, “I am committed to making mental health issues a priority for my office and will work with the Governor, Attorney General, General Assembly and leadership. locals to deal with this crisis. ”
When asked if he was open to legislation restricting access to firearms, Youngkin said “now is not the time” to talk about such issues.
“I basically believe there will be a time to talk about these things. I believe people who are trying to bring them up are trying to talk about things that really have time,” Youngkin said. This is not the time. Today is the time to support families and bring people together. There will be a time to talk about these things.
The comments followed a mass shooting at a Walmart in Chesapeake on Tuesday night. Seven people died, including the shooter, who self-inflicted a wound. Four people remain hospitalized, WAVY 10 reported Wednesday morning.
On November 13, a University of Virginia student shot and killed three former football teammates and injured two on a bus returning from a school trip in Washington DC. The alleged shooter, Christopher Darnell Jones Jr., is in custody, and Attorney General Jason Miyares’ office is conducting an external investigation into the shooting at the request of the university.
And earlier this year, two Bridgewater College police officers were killed in a campus shooting. The shooter faces charges in Rockingham County.
Pressures on the mental health system
Virginia’s mental health system has been under strain for several years, with problems culminating in July when understaffing forced the state to temporarily close five of its psychiatric hospitals to new admissions for safety reasons.
Demands on public hospitals have also increased. Since Virginia’s “beds of last resort” law went into effect in 2014, which requires state psychiatric facilities to admit patients after an eight-hour period if no bed can be found in ‘other institutions, the number of patients admitted to remand orders increased by nearly 400%.
The biennial budget adopted by the General Assembly last June provided salary increases of 37% on average for direct care staff in public mental health facilities to stem the losses. No increase was included for staff of community service commissions, local agencies that serve people with behavioral health issues in the community.
Mental health issues among students were also one of the top issues highlighted by the Joint Commission on Legislative Review and State Audit in a recent study on the impact of COVID-19. on Virginia schools. JLARC found these issues to be of “concern” among students. At the same time, some districts are losing mental health providers due to what those providers say are changes in how the state handles the provision of these services.
Violence Reduction Efforts
Virginia passed major gun control reforms in 2020 while the state was controlled by Democrats. The legislation imposed universal background checks on gun sales, instituted red flag orders, required gun owners to report lost or stolen guns, increased certain gun penalties. fire and reinstated the previous law of one handgun per month. A proposal to ban assault weapons entirely failed in the Senate.
Last session, with power split between Democrats and Republicans, the parties agreed to include $13 million in the state budget aimed at reducing shootings through a fund that could provide grants to local governments, community groups and hospitals for gun violence reduction efforts and another fund focused on crime prevention strategies.
The figure was well below the $27 million proposed by incumbent Governor Ralph Northam and pushed by Senate Democrats last session for a nationwide gun violence prevention and response center. the state within the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services.
Courtesy of Virginia Mercury.
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