In Wake Of Newtown Tragedy, Virginia Governor Proposes Slashing Funding For Mental Health Services

By Tara Culp- Ressler


In the wake of the tragic shooting in an elementary school in Newtown, CT, Americans are engaged in a renewed discussion about how to prevent future mass shootings. But while some lawmakers are working toward legislative solutions to prevent gun violence, Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-VA) is proposing a new budget that could undermine that goal.

McDonnell is proposing a mix of spending increases and cuts to Virginia’s two-year budget that would slash nearly $60 million to state agencies — and, as the Washington Post reports, some of those cuts come from sources many Americans might prefer to be well-funded. Even though the events in Newtown have put mental illness back in the national spotlight, McDonnell seeks to cut $1.5 million from Virginia’s mental health facilities, and looks to save an additional $7 million by closing a juvenile correction facility in the state.

Mental health services remain largely underfunded across the country, as many states like Virginia seek to tighten their budgets to compensate for the rising costs of health care. Only about 7 percent of Americans currently receive some type of mental health treatment, potentially because they can be difficult to afford — mental illness tends to disproportionately impact low-income Americans, but treatment carries high out-of-pocket costs.

Luckily, Obamacare may help improve Americans’ access to mental health treatment, since federal officials do recommend that all states offer coverage for mental health services in the health insurance exchanges they will operate under the health reform law. McDonnell, however, remains a staunch opponent of Obamacare and has refused to work toward setting up a state-level exchange in Virginia.

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