Creigh Deeds delivers remarks at Region Ten’s Recovery Conference
Pictured from left: Cyndi Richardson from On Our Own, CAC Chair Andre Lewis, Region Ten Executive Director Robert Johnson, Keynote Speaker Kevin Michael Earley, and Virginia State Senator Creigh Deeds
Virginia State Senator Creigh Deeds (D-25th District) delivered remarks at Region Ten’s Recovery Conference held Friday, October 28 at the University Holiday Inn on Emmet Street, Charlottesville. Senator Deeds began his remarks noting that Community Services Boards do not get the resources they need. He expressed concerns that CSBs lack consistency in the array and quality of services provided to communities across the Commonwealth. He called for Virginia to build a more uniform state system of care where people can get the mental health, developmental disability, and substance use disorder services they need, regardless of where they live.
Senator Deeds has been involved in a study reviewing the behavioral health care system that has focused on Virginia’s system of care. The final report is due next December. Senator Deeds noted that four work areas have emerged where more needs to be done. These four areas include supportive housing, crisis intervention, the intersection of criminal justice and mental health, and the structure and financing of our system of care.
Senator Deeds also noted the success of Crisis Intervention Teams, also known as CIT, where law enforcement officers are exposed to training centered around responding to incidents involving individuals with inclusive mental health needs. Senator Deeds was quick to point out his advocacy for the San Antonio model, which prescribes 100 percent participation of officers in CIT, as opposed to the Memphis model, which prescribes only 25 percent officer participation.
Senator Deeds strongly urged localities to pay their fair share of behavioral healthcare cost for their communities. Despite continued increases in a robust continuum of inclusive mental health services, many localities in Virginia have backed away from paying equitable local shares of the costs of these services.
Senator Deeds drew applause when he urged Virginia to expand Medicaid, as a responsible way to pay for services. Medicaid expansion would allow more tax dollars to be kept in Virginia to pay for Virginia’s healthcare needs, including behavioral health. Additionally, he cited statistics noting that the long term care cost of nursing home care is 70% of the Medicaid budget, a cost that was not a factor when Medicaid was originally developed.
The conference featured other speakers including keynote speaker Kevin Michael Earley, a peer specialist in Fairfax, Virginia who is also the subject of the book Crazy: A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness. Mr. Earley also made a documentary about his recovery, which recalls his journey dealing with Bipolar disorder, a condition that first manifested in him at age 21. Mr. Earley recalled his “light bulb” moment when he acknowledged and accepted his mental illness and took responsibility for his health by seeking case management, psychiatry, and wrap around services.
The recovery conference is an annual event sponsored by Region Ten. Executive Director Robert Johnson opened the conference sporting lively attire for the Halloween season. Also participating in the conference was Drum Call a drum circle led by William “Whit” Whitten. Cyndi Richardson of Own Our Own rounded out the conference describing On Our Own, a local peer run support, self-help, advocacy and education, group in Charlottesville.