Governor-elect McAuliffe discusses plans for mental health funding

Posted at 6:44 PM, Nov 22, 2013
and last updated 2013-11-22 18:44:22-05

Four years ago, Terry McAuliffe ran against Senator Creigh Deeds to be the Democratic nominee for Virginia governor, and lost.

Now, as the new Governor-elect in 2013, he has the power to fix the mental healthcare system that failed Senator Deeds and his son, Gus, earlier this week.

“Praying for the Deeds family, the tragedy. There are serious issues around funding mental illness,” he says.

Funding, that McAuliffe says he will increase as governor, in part by using federal dollars coming from Medicaid expansion.

Priorities include training police officers that respond to mental health crisis, hiring more staff at local community service boards, and giving incentives to private hospitals to build more beds for use in psychiatric emergencies.

“We've been relying so much on private sector. They can turn people away, that is what might have happened in this case. The state needs to step up to the plate, that we bear the responsibility to take care of our citizens. I take this very seriously,” McAuliffe says.

And that means investing in long-term care solutions for the mentally ill.

Right now, jails are full of inmates turned away from mental institutions because of budget cuts.

So McAuliffe campaigned on the promise to get people out of isolation cells and into places where they can get the treatment thy need.

“This is a tragedy and we have to do something about it,” McAuliffe says.

The governor-elect hopes to have some solutions ready to introduce in next year’s General Assembly session.

Then, it will be up to legislators to pass.