ICYMI: Spanberger Hosts Telephone Town Hall with Virginia Experts Focused on Mental Health Challenges During COVID-19 Pandemic

During the Town Hall, the Congresswoman Discussed Provisions in the American Rescue Plan that Address Mental & Behavioral Health Issues in Central Virginia

HENRICO, V.A. – U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger yesterday hosted an open, public telephone town hall focused on behavioral and mental health challenges facing Central Virginians one year into the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the event, she was joined by several Virginia mental health experts — including Lisa Jobe-Shields, Deputy Director, Community Services, Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services; Dr. Chethan Bachireddy, Chief Medical Officer, Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services; and Dr. F. Gerard Moeller, Director, VCU Institute for Drug and Alcohol Studies and the C. Kenneth and Dianne Wright Center for Clinical and Translational Research. Spanberger and her guests heard questions, concerns, and personal stories directly from Seventh District constituents about how mental health, behavioral health, and addiction issues have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis.

Spanberger also discussed provisions in the American Rescue Plan targeted at strengthening support for COVID-19-related behavioral and mental health services. Earlier this month, she voted to pass the relief legislation, which provides an additional $4 billion to tackle these issues in Central Virginia and across the country.

More than 4,500 Central Virginians tuned in to Spanberger’s virtual town hall. Click here to watch a recording of Wednesday night’s event.

“During the pandemic, I’ve heard personal stories of hardship from so many of our neighbors across the Seventh District. I’ve heard many inspiring personal stories of overcoming these challenges, but I’ve also heard stories of tremendous struggle and loss. This week’s mental health-focused town hall was on a pressing topic impacting thousands of individuals and families here in the Seventh District,” said Spanberger. “During our town hall, I appreciated the opportunity to hear directly from those I serve about their concerns and questions as we build a strong, community-focused recovery. I’d like to thank the Virginia experts who helped share answers about how our Commonwealth and our country are addressing mental health, behavioral health, and addiction challenges during the pandemic — and beyond. My office remains a resource for those who are seeking help and resources in this moment of difficulty.”

“It’s not a choice whether you have an addiction. It’s a medical problem, not a character flaw,” said F. Gerard Moeller, M.D., Director, VCU Institute for Drug and Alcohol Studies and the C. Kenneth and Dianne Wright Center for Clinical and Translational Research. “And there are effective treatments for addiction. Compassionate addiction treatment and research are a major focus of work at VCU and VCU Health — and I appreciated the opportunity to share an update on this work during Congresswoman Spanberger’s virtual town hall.”

“Even with all the challenges we are facing, it is important to remember that resiliency and recovery after trauma is the norm, not the exception. If you are struggling, it does not mean that you are not resilient- it just means that you could use some support on the way,” said Lisa Jobe-Shields, Deputy Director, Community Services, Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services. “Help is available. If you aren’t ready to reach out for professional help, reach out to someone you trust and share how you’re feeling as a first step.” 

“COVID-19 has disrupted our lives and worsened mental health and the overdose epidemic. Mental illness and addiction are chronic conditions with effective treatments. Now more than ever, it is important to remain socially connected while we practice physical distancing,” said Dr. Chethan Bachireddy, Chief Medical Officer, Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services. “Make sure you and your loved ones are covered and have health insurance. You can visit Coverva.org to find out if you may be eligible for Virginia Medicaid coverage or for coverage through the Federal Marketplace.”

For those seeking assistance during this time, Central Virginians are encouraged to call or text the Virginia COPES warmline number at 877-349-6428.

BACKGROUND

Specifically, the American Rescue Plan provides:

  • $1.5 billion for the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment block grant program,
  • $1.5 billion for the Community Mental Health block grant program,
  • $420 million for certified community behavioral health clinics,
  • $280 million for programs that support mental and behavioral health and prevent burnout among healthcare providers and public safety officers,
  • $100 million for Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) mental health services, and
  • $80 million specifically for the Pediatric Mental Health Care Access Program at HRSA

Thursday’s telephone town hall was Spanberger’s 13th free, public telephone town hall since the COVID-19 pandemic began. These events have focused on the impacts of the virus on Central Virginia families, small businesses, students, and seniors. Click here for recordings of these events.

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