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Recovery program, others may see funding increases

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

Piedmont Community Services’ Community Recovery Program, which combats substance use disorders through employment and long-term recovery, would receive $300,000 each year under Gov. Bob McDonnell’s proposed two-year budget.

That’s according to a news release on the Office of the Governor website.

In addition to Piedmont Community Services, officials with several other local agencies were interviewed Monday about the impact of the proposed budget.

“That is what we requested,” Jim Tobin, executive director of Piedmont Community Services, said of the governor’s proposed funding for the Community Recovery Program (CRP). Harvest Foundation funding for CRP runs out this fiscal year, Tobin said.

The proposed $600,000 over two years “fully funds (CRP) and allows for a marginal strengthening,” Tobin said.

If the funding is approved, the “very preliminary plan” is to add a staff position, to be located in Rocky Mount, so that CRP could expand its services to Franklin County, Tobin said.

A number of statewide mental health initiatives under the governor’s proposed budget “may or may not benefit our community,” Tobin said. He is awaiting details and exploring further, he added.

Tobin is hopeful funding would be available to strengthen telepsychiatry services. He also will be looking into the possibility that Piedmont might benefit from initiatives to strengthen targeted services to people at high-need of mental health services, such as people who have been hospitalized frequently due to mental health concerns.

He also will be looking into whether Piedmont Community Services might benefit from $3.5 million in fiscal year 2015 and $4 million in fiscal year 2016 proposed statewide for mental health services for older teens and young adults transitioning from school, college or early in their adulthood, when most serious mental illnesses first make their onset and engagement in treatment is imperative.

Tobin said he supports the governor’s convening of a Task Force on Improving Mental Health Services and Crisis Response. The task force calls for leaders in the mental health field, law enforcement communities, the judicial system and private hospitals, along with individuals receiving mental health services and their families, to seek and recommend solutions that will improve Virginia's mental health crisis services and help prevent crises from developing, according to a news release.

Tobin said he believes this task force “holds great potential for (institutionalizing) a long-term, cumulative, progressive approach for mental health” in Virginia. Virginia and other states periodically have a big mental health initiative, often the result of a crisis such as the Virginia Tech or Sandy Hook Elementary shootings, but later, “priorities go off in other directions,” Tobin said.

The idea is instead of having “a one-time booster shot” approach as a result of a crisis, to have a “year to year, biennium to biennium, governor to governor, long-term, cumulative, progressive” approach to mental health, Tobin said.

“As the state (mental health) hospital system retrenches, gets smaller and has less capacity year to year, it makes sense if the cumulative, long-term growth of the community (mental health) system is done year to year,” he said.

In addition, Tobin said, the governor has alluded there is a strong intellectual disability initiative in his proposed budget. Tobin said he had not seen details. Intellectual disability formerly was known as mental retardation.

Joe Keiper, executive director of the Virginia Museum of Natural History, said the governor’s proposed budget, in addition to level funding for the museum for fiscal 2014-15, provides a total of $295,284 over two years in one-time funding, which the museum plans to use for increased marketing and to hire one or two new research positions. The museum markets primarily in Roanoke now, and the additional funding would allow it to market in Greensboro, N.C., and maybe Lynchburg as well, Keiper said. The additional staff positions would be considered temporary, he said.

Kathy Rogers, executive director of Piedmont Arts, said funding for the Virginia Commission for the Arts would increase from $4.7 million to $4.9 million under the governor’s proposed budget. But there is no guarantee Piedmont Arts would get any of the increase, because more and more arts groups compete for funding from VCA, she said. “We receive less than $20,000 (from VCA) this year,” she said. Piedmont Arts’ total budget this year is about $560,000, she added.

As Collinsville District member on the Henry County School Board, Rogers said the governor’s proposed increase in funding for public schools “looks like a step in the right direction.”

Martinsville Sheriff Steve Draper said, “We’re hoping for a 2 percent raise” for deputy sheriffs, including jailers, as well as administrative staff. He said he doesn’t think the Martinsville jail would qualify for overcrowding funding, but he suspects the Henry County Jail might.

Henry County Sheriff Lane Perry said at this point, “We have no idea what we would be eligible for.” It would depend on how funding is divided, he said. “It’s something to be hopeful about.”

Martinsville City Manager Leon Towarnicki described as “encouraging” that $21.3 million in additional funding is proposed statewide to assist local law enforcement through the “599” program. But he did not have details about how the money would be divided.

State 599 funds go to police departments.

Pam Heath, superintendent of Martinsville City Public Schools, said she would have to study the proposed budget further before knowing what impact it would have on the school division. “Big for us, this year re-benchmarking takes place, when all different accounts we are funded under are recalculated based on updated data. Our Local Composite Index went up (which means the community is more prosperous). We had one of the lowest in the state,” Heath said.

A rise in the Local Composite Index “means a smaller portion of our required expenses is funded by state,” but a number of variables, including student enrollment, can offset that, she said. “We are projected to have enrollment increases over the next five years,” she added.

Heath said she was glad the governor proposed increasing the commonwealth’s share of funding the Virginia Retirement System. “The down piece is that localities will be asked to increase what they pay towards it. From what I have heard from other superintendents, that will hit localities across the commonwealth very hard.”

Heath said she wished some additional “enhancements” in funding had been proposed for public schools, such as restoring some of the Standards of Quality positions that were cut several years ago during the recession. And, she said, “I don’t see a teacher salary increase.”

Several other officials either could not be reached, didn’t know yet what impact the governor’s proposals would have or didn’t expect much impact.

 

 
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