SB555 passed out of the House of Delegates’ Health, Welfare, and Institutions (HWI) Subcommittee #2 this morning, 2/20/18, with a result of 7 yea to 3 nay; however, there are three more steps for this bill to be signed into law:

  1. Thursday morning at 9:30am, SB555 needs to pass out of the full HWI Committee. Keep updated on the meeting schedule here.
  2. SB555 then needs to pass on the floor of the full House.
  3. The Governor must sign SB555 into law.

Since this bill did not pass unanimously, it is imperative to reach out to members of the full HWI Committee. The subcommittee seemed to understand the value of peer services yet raised two concerns: (1) the barrier crime exclusion in this bill, burglary, includes the use of a weapon, and (2) the bill, as it is written, would remove burglary from the list of anybody hired, not solely Peer Recovery Specialists.

There are some things to keep in mind, however:

  1. Virginia CSBs and state facilities have rules in place regulating weapons already.
  2. This exclusion affords agencies the option to hire someone with a past burglary conviction; it does not mandate it.
  3. The language of the bill specifies that a person can be considered for employment “if… the person has been successfully rehabilitated and is not a risk to individuals receiving services based on his criminal history background and his substance abuse or mental illness history.”

In other words, the peer would then be considered in recovery.

  1. Because employment is an important component to recovery for many peers and reduces recidivism, peers should be able to seek employment in the behavioral health field, not restricted only to the Peer Recovery Specialist profession.
  2. Removing barriers to employment for Virginia’s peers will allow peers to progress in their individual recovery, as well as, provide a greater sense of peers’ well-being, in addition to contributing to economic growth.
  3. Additionally, with the newly proposed Medicaid work requirements, this exclusion would allow peers that may have a past burglary conviction to use their lived experience to help others living with the same challenges, resulting in numerous individuals leading more fulfilling lives and again, contributing to the Virginia’s economic growth.

Your voice is STILL needed in relation to this important piece of legislation. Now that SB555 is moving on to the full committee, it is imperative to continue to educate our legislators on the importance of peer services.

VOCAL published this document for its use in educating legislators on the importance of peer services and the impact of barrier crimes on those services. Please feel free to use this piece for educational purposes while contacting your legislators should you so desire.

SB555 is on the HWI docket for THIS Thursday, 2/22/18, at 9:30 am in the House Committee Room. Please feel free to join VOCAL at the committee meeting on Thursday or use this list to contact HWI committee members to let them know your thoughts on SB555.

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