Governor McAuliffe signs directive establishing Center for Behavioral Health and Justice

Governor-McAuliffeToday Governor McAuliffe signed Executive Directive Four to establish the Center for Behavioral Health and Justice, an interagency collaborative to better coordinate behavioral health and justice services. The announcement came during the final meeting of the Governor’s Task Force for Improving Mental Health Services and Crisis Response, which originated under former Governor McDonnell and was continued by Governor McAuliffe in April 2014.

“Nearly a year ago, I asked this Task Force to continue its work and develop bold ideas to help the Commonwealth address the gaps in our behavioral health system,” said Governor McAuliffe. “Today I am proud to sign this directive making the centerpiece of their recommendations a reality. Through the Center we will achieve better coordination of programs and services, state and local governments, and our public and private sectors. This will help ensure that Virginians with behavioral health needs in our justice system are treated with dignity and receive the health care services they desperately need.”

The mission of the Center is to achieve greater behavioral health and justice coordination across public and private sectors through a collaborative, multi-systems approach to data collection and analytics; evidence based programs and practices; education, outreach and training; and technical assistance and resource development.

“I thank the Governor and his administration, the dedicated members of this Task Force, and the General Assembly for taking significant actions to address Virginia’s serious behavioral health needs throughout the last year,” said Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam, Chair of the Governor’s Task Force. “The establishment of the Center for Behavioral Health and Justice is another step in the right direction that will help ensure better coordination of programs and services for years to come.”

The Task Force sent a set of 25 recommendations to the Governor in October 2014, and the Center was central to those proposals. The Joint Subcommittee on Mental Health Services in the Twenty-First Century, created via legislation in 2014, also endorsed the Center as a priority.

“Too often, when mental illness and law enforcement are mentioned in the same breath, it is in the context of a tragic situation,” said Secretary of Health and Human Resources Dr. Bill Hazel. “Establishment of this Center for Behavioral Health and Justice shows a formal commitment to change that perception and to change outcomes for Virginians.”

“The Center is a statewide means to enhance collaboration across the criminal justice and behavioral health systems,” said Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran. “It will provide a one stop shop for access to data, information about evidence based programs and technical assistance, decreasing inappropriate incarceration, enhancing public safety and reducing stigma using sound data driven decision making.”

The directive establishes the Center for Behavioral Health and Justice and requires an Executive Leadership Council to develop an organizational structure and implementation plan for the Center by July 1, 2015. The Leadership Council will include: the Deputy Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security; the Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Resources; the Commissioners of the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services and the Department of Health; and the Directors of the Departments of Corrections, Criminal Justice Services, Juvenile Justice and Medical Assistance Services.


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