Daily Press (Sunday)

Youngkin seeks more mental health funds

Governor’s agenda includes social media restrictio­ns for youth

- By Katie King

Gov. Glenn Youngkin will push for more efforts to improve mental health during the upcoming legislativ­e session, including $500 million for his “Right Help, Right Now” initiative and new social media restrictio­ns.

“This might be the most important thing that we do,” said Youngkin, speaking Thursday at a news conference in Richmond.

The bulk of funding ($307 million) would be used to expand waivers for individual­s with developmen­tal disorders to receive support services without being in an institutio­n. It would create 3,440 additional waivers, enough to eliminate the state’s current waitlist of top priority applicants, according to a news release from the governor’s office.

The release states $46 million would go to community crisis receiving centers and mobile response teams to reduce reliance on emergency rooms for mental health emergencie­s. Another $28 million would be used to help address the opioid crisis. A significan­t portion ($23 million) would also be used to expand schoolbase­d mental health services for children and teenagers.

“We know that our young people are struggling,” Youngkin said. “Too many young people face these challenges privately and usually without help or support.”

The funding plan more than doubles the $230 million proposed for the first year of the “Right Help, Right Now” initiative, which is intended to overhaul the state’s mental health care system. In the program’s first year, Youngkin said the state saw the addition of 57 state-funded mobile crisis units. He said it funded public and private education campaigns against opioid abuse, and developed educationa­l pathways at schools to encourage students to pursue a career as mental health profession­als.

The governor further discussed concerns that social media is negatively affecting youth.

“Pew Research reports that 80% of high school students use social media daily and another recent study suggests that more than a few hours per day on social media doubles the risk of poor mental health for adolescent­s,” he said. “… Our children are losing the chance to cultivate essential social skills and encoun

tering cyberbully­ing and isolation.”

The State of Mental Health in America 2023 report found that 19.5% of children in Virginia have had at least one major depressive episode. About 60% did not receive treatment. Of those with severe depression who received treatment, only 34.9% received it on a consistent basis.

During the upcoming legislativ­e session, Youngkin said he will push for a bill that would require social media companies to obtain parental consent before creating an account for those under age 18.

He previously tried to tack this provision onto a successful bill that required users to provide identifica­tion before viewing websites with sexual content. His provision,

however, was nixed by legislator­s.

Youngkin said he also wanted to ban social media companies from using targeted advertisin­g on minors or selling their data.

“(Parents) should be confident that their child won’t be targeted by things like appetite suppressin­g lollipops or weight loss pills just because a social media company is tracking their child’s search history,” he said.

Youngkin has frequently raised concerns with social media. Last year, he issued an executive order banning the use of the Chineseown­ed social media platform TikTok on state government devices and wireless networks due to concerns it was a national security threat.

The General Assembly will reconvene in January.

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 ?? ALEX BRANDON/AP ?? Gov. Glenn Youngkin speaks Wednesday in Alexandria. On Thursday, he said he would pursue mental health reform legislatio­n next year as the General Assembly reconvenes.
ALEX BRANDON/AP Gov. Glenn Youngkin speaks Wednesday in Alexandria. On Thursday, he said he would pursue mental health reform legislatio­n next year as the General Assembly reconvenes.

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