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Gov. McAuliffe Announces Agenda to Strengthen Virginia’s Mental Health System and...

From Gov. McAuliffe: Governor Announces Agenda to Strengthen Virginia’s Mental Health System and Combat Opioid Epidemic ~ Proposes comprehensive analysis of behavioral health system ~ RICHMOND –...

Virginia Prison Mentally Ill Study Showcases Need for Changes

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Video: Governor McAuliffe Kicks Off 2015

It was Creigh Deeds' event, but guest Terry McAuliffe ran with it, ringing out the first and in the second year as Virginia's 72nd Governor. McAuliffe made his first campaign stop of 2015 supporting his former gubernatorial rival and using the opportunity to tune up on this year's legislative agenda.

A year after taking office, the Governor took the opportunity to climb on the soapbox to emphasize the issues he ran on and report progress. He enumerated a number of issues, but jobs and healthcare were the bookends claiming substantial progress on one and frustration with the other. On jobs, he pointed out that the state faced strong headwinds, losing nine billion dollars in defense contacts the last three years; more than any other state in the country. So, he has set out re-purposing Virginia's economy to make it less reliant on the federal government. That is what he thinks about every single day.

Additional issues addressed:
  • Women's rights
  • Marriage equality
  • Responsible gun ownership
  • Mental/behavioral health
  • Reformed Standards of learning
  • Daycare centers
  • Restoration of rights
  • Building broadband

McAuliffe announced that there would be a booklet published today, the first anniversary of his inauguration, outlining accomplishments during his first year in office. Highlighting successes on jobs, he said his whole emphasis is on how to build that new economy. And in that effort he has become the most travelled governor in our nation's history. The results so far include 265 economic deals and $5.4 billion in direct investment; double what any governor has ever done on job creation.  

Misogyny, Mental Health, and Violence


Senator Mark Warner is daddy to three young women. That was clear during Friday's town hall portion of a campaign stop. Responding to a question he could not have anticipated, he answered from the heart: no clichés; no mantras; no sophomoric solutions. None apply. He's had reason to "get it."

The woman who asked the question does not attend college in Virginia but Anna is a Virginian. She asked the question in a city that is home to a large university with a lively social scene; it wasn't directed at James Madison University. It is not about her school (Ferrum College) either. (She told me that the administration at Ferrum supports women's safety.) However, it follows the events in Isla Vista that are a clarion call for a very long moment of cultural introspection. In one horrible manifestation of misogyny, the crisis in mental health care, and the propensity to violence, Elliot Rodger painted an alarming abstract with all these elements that demands our attention.

Other symptoms of these cultural cancers are renown. Senator Warner is absolutely correct that there is no law that will prevent the tragedies; particularly those that are shrouded in shame; never reported. Those cannot even be punished; in practical terms the only remedy a law provides. We must break the cycle of misogynistic abuse through an honest assessment of our culture and ourselves; all of us: men and women, girls and boys, everyone in between. Shame is a curtain of steel and despite the source of our mores, secular, religious, or otherwise, it must be pulled aside to allow sunlight to shine on relations between women and men. All the ugly must be visited even if we desperately want to pretend it doesn't exist.

This reminds me of my own reticence to speak out about the clumsy and ineffective protestations in Congress over the treatment of women in the armed forces. My own angry immediate reaction to each report would do nothing to further the debate over how this problem should be addressed. And human relations are complicated enough without taking out a brush to paint them over with unenforceable pandering. That is what Congress gave us. There is the real shame! No, Senator Warner is exactly where he should be on the issue Anna raised and I suspect on the cultural problems that manifest in the military. I sincerely hope she follows up and that the Senator uses this as a door to help provide a glimmer of cultural leadership.  

Mark Herring on the Road Across Virginia

Mark Herring in Waynesboro photo 140328_Herring_Waynesboro_23_zpsb01ba314.jpgIn Waynesboro yesterday Mark Herring concluded a series of productive meetings with regional officials aimed at helping the top prosecutor's office best serve the needs of communities. Unfortunately, many of the reports of these meetings have reduced the lessons to budget shortfalls. Problem? He isn't carrying a rabid social agenda.

Herring began this meeting explaining that his heart is truly with local government where he got his start in politics. Before elected office, he served as the town attorney for a small town in western Loudoun County.

As Attorney General, he has taken three major initiatives: first, is a review of systems and operations to see that the Office is operating as efficiently and effectively as possible; next is a top to bottom review of all the services and programs the Office is a part of as well as the human capital that is linked to those; and, the third piece, what he was doing yesterday, is meeting directly with local law enforcement, those on the front lines protecting the community, so he can hear first-hand about the challenges they face as well as ways they have worked with the Office in the past and ways the Office might be able to help meet the challenges they face.

The series of 22 meetings have been incredibly informative according to Herring. There have been some common themes. Funding, he said, is always a challenge. But another common theme has been mental health. There are some regional differences which you would expect in a state as large and diverse as Virginia. While overall, violent crime is down, there are some areas that are continuing to experience gang problems. In some areas the gang problem is not as visible but the gangs have become an offshoot of organized crime. Some other localities are seeing continuing problems with meth labs and prescription drugs. He also pointed out that there can be the tendency, when you take a short period of time to talk about crime, which can lead to a misimpression of an area; that he knows these communities are safe locations where a lot of people are doing a lot of good work. And it is those local successes he wants to hear about as well.  

Tim Kaine’s Focus on Military and Veterans Affairs

Often, when politicians parade out military and veterans, it is uninformed pandering. Active duty members have served as shields to buffer misbegotten strategy for a decade. Veterans are useful symbols adorning campaign literature and appearances. But Governor Kaine's Norfolk veterans' round-table was a very welcome departure from the norm.

Kaine told the group he was there to "get up to speed for the job that he hopes to have come January." Looking forward, he hopes to pick up Jim Webb's military and veterans portfolio when he enters the Senate and provide continuity to the efforts of predecessors John Warner and Webb. Mark Warner, who will be the senior Senator from Virginia has his own set of interests on the commerce and banking side. So, Kaine believes he can build upon his experience as the state executive by hearing from veterans about Federal issues facing the military and veterans.

Though Kaine did not serve in the military, as Governor during two active wars his role as Commander in Chief of the Guard became a significant part of the job including trips to the theater and, sadly, attending too many funerals. This led to a passion for the issues involving the guard, reserves, veterans, and military families. While he had no role in making the conditions of war any better he did work with the legislature to make Virginia a better place for those affected by the wars. One of the only parts of Virginia government that grew during his term as governor was the Department of Veterans Services. One other aspect of his life that stokes the passion for these issues is the fact that his son will graduate from college this semester and be commissioned as an officer in the Marine Corps.  

The State of Virginia Colleges’ Mental Health

Virginia State SealProfessor Richard Bonnie of U.Va. Law presented the results of a study of mental health care at Virginia's colleges and universities last week-and testified to the Behavioral Health Subcommittee of the General Assembly's Joint Commission on Health Care regarding the results.

Here are some of the results:

1) Private colleges have about 70 percent more counseling staff than public colleges.

I would imagine that this is due in large part to funding issues. The Fairfax County Times wrote this month:

"Five consecutive years of state funding reductions have made Virginia's public universities and colleges less affordable and accessible to students, according to a report released by the State Council for Higher Education for Virginia."

I understand the constraints facing the General Assembly when trying to balance a budget, but it doesn't seem like we should be sacrificing providing a low cost public education to Virginia students-particularly when Virginia's colleges and universities are some of the best in the nation. Extending that, I REALLY don't think that we should have this much of a discrepancy compared to private institutions when it comes to mental services, and I'm quite frankly surprised that the state has gotten away with it after several prominent instances of mental health issues not seeing proper care in Virginia schools over the past few years (the most obvious being the Virginia Tech shooting, but I can think of many others).