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Loudoun County Psychiatric Nurse On the Front Lines of the Battle Against Opioid Addiction: “Expand Medicaid now!”

2026
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by Patti Nelson, a psychiatric nurse, mom, campaign volunteer and Loudoun Chapter Chair of SEIU Virginia 512

My name is Patti Nelson. I’m a mom, a union member and a psychiatric nurse who works as a Program Manager of Nursing Services for Loudoun County.

My colleagues and I are on the front lines of the battle against opioid addiction, mental illness and chronic disease.

We have a message for our elected officials in Richmond: Expand Medicaid now!

Here in Loudoun – the richest county in the nation – half of those seeking treatment for mental illness and addiction have no health insurance and limited income.

We do our best to provide treatment. However, those with serious mental illnesses also have higher rates of serious chronic medical illnesses, such as heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and more.

Medicaid Expansion would give us the tools to save lives and help those in our community suffering from mental illness and addiction get back on their feet.

Right now, our “safety net” is full of holes. We refer people to clinics with sliding scales, but often they still can’t afford the fees or medicine. Going to emergency rooms for a medical crisis, they leave without access to ongoing treatment, and medical bills that are financially devastating for themselves and their families.

This is not happening to nameless, faceless people.

This is happening to my friends and neighbors.

It almost happened to me.

Eight years ago, my husband passed away. For several years before that, we did not have insurance and he was not able to get the medical care he needed.

I am a recent breast cancer survivor.  If I had gotten cancer during the time we were uninsured, I wouldn’t have had a mammogram. I wouldn’t have had life-saving surgery or radiation. I wouldn’t have medicine to prevent the cancer from coming back.

As a nurse, a union member and a mom, I say it’s time to end the unnecessary suffering that is a result of years of delay in expanding Medicaid.

I have often heard the false argument that we can’t implement a program until fraud, waste, and abuse is addressed.

The truth is that Medicaid is an effective, efficiently run program.

I believe the true fraud, waste and abuse is the unnecessary suffering of the 400,000 Virginians who have been denied access to health care coverage, the millions of dollars we have lost, and the strain put on local governments and frontline healthcare staff to do our jobs without the needed resources.

Our elected officials in Richmond have a chance to end that unnecessary suffering. It’s time they passed a clean Medicaid Expansion.