State budget cuts don't spare mental health

psalasky@dailypress.com

Virginia's mental health services took their share of losses from Gov. Terry McAuliffe's budget cuts, announced Wednesday. The cuts are spread across agencies, including the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, the state's mental health residential facilities and the Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services.

The state's mental health services took their share of losses from Gov. Terry McAuliffe's budget cuts, announced Wednesday.

The cuts are spread across agencies, including the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, the state's mental health residential facilities and the Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services.

At the latter, funding for brain injury programs has been reduced by $427,000.

"That was for short-term help for those with a brain injury," said Christina Nuckols, speaking for Bill Hazel, secretary of Health and Human Resources. She added that $150,000 of it would have been an increase, with the cut accounting for 9 percent of total funding.

Centers for Independent Living also sustained a significant loss — $230,250. The department "can get some federal funds — $82,000 — to assist people with employment. That will make up some of the cut," Nuckols added.

In all, the state's psychiatric facilities will see the layoffs of 15 personnel and an overall reduction in funding of $1.25 million. Eastern State Hospital in James City County will lose $325,000 in staff funding, a cut that will be absorbed through attrition, and is "not anticipated to have a significant effect on patient care," according to the governor's plan.

At the Department of Behavioral Health, five layoffs were announced amid cuts of more than $3.6 million in fiscal year 2015, with greater cuts anticipated in 2016. The layoffs are distributed among staff in clerical and administrative services, human resources and strategic planning. The department "has been subject to a number of budget reductions over the last 10 years and faces numerous pressures, including the Department of Justice Settlement Agreement and new mental health legislation," Commissioner Debra Ferguson wrote in a letter to facility directors and community services board leaders.

The cuts amount to a 5 percent reduction at the central office, a 0.5 percent cut to mental health hospitals, and a 1.4 percent decrease for the facility holding those deemed to be sexually violent predators.

"There aren't any easy budget cuts. There aren't any easy options," said Nuckols.

Salasky can be reached by phone at 757-247-4784.

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