Dear VOCAL Members and Friends:
Governor Northam is calling Virginia’s legislature into a Special Session on Tuesday, August 18th to address budget shortfalls and to work on police and criminal justice reform.
It is imperative to advocate for funding community-based behavioral health initiatives at this time due to the exacerbation of behavioral health crises during the pandemic. We must #Act4MentalHealth by contacting Governor Northam and our legislators to fund these critical priorities that are an economical way to positively impact Virginia’s behavioral health system.
You may call Governor Northam at 804-786-2211 or email him here. You may find your legislator here by entering your address. Click on more info to locate your legislator’s phone number and email address.
Here is a sample letter you may use or amend to include your own personal experience:
Dear Honorable Delegate OR Senator LAST NAME,
My name is FIRST NAME LAST NAME and I am one of your constituents. I am writing to you today to express my support of funding community-based initiatives that support the needs of the behavioral health community. Now, more than ever, I feel it is imperative that we come together as Virginians to ensure that our citizens subjected to exacerbation of behavioral health challenges due to the dual pandemics have a voice at the table as subject matter experts.
I support the demands of the Justice and Reformation Campaign to implement and fund the Marcus Alert, a trauma-informed co-response system for moments when Virginians are experiencing behavioral health crises. I also support the establishment of an independent body of citizens, with subpoena power, to review all incidents of police-involved shootings. Additionally, I support the removal of all Confederate memorials across our state, which currently serve as visual reminders of my fellow community members’ oppression and enslavement. In order to fulfill the necessary improvements to our community and statewide institutions, these priorities must be funded. Fortunately, there are funds available within Virginia’s institutional budgets that can be redirected towards the implementation of these community-driven initiatives.
In addition to supporting those funding changes; I also call on you, as my elected representative, to demand funding reallotment for Behavioral Health Enhancement (formerly called Redesign) and the continued implementation of STEP-VA. As a peer with lived experience of behavioral health crises, I have first hand knowledge that community-based supports are what serve me best while enduring a crisis. Additionally, there must be legislation passed for telehealth that provides support to Virginians who have been most significantly impacted by the health pandemic, including physical and behavioral health. Without funding for the social determinants of health, one simply can not feel safe and live successfully in their own recovery.
The elimination of stigma and discrimination of the recovery community is bound together with the liberation of the Black community. I will continue to advocate until all stigma against these communities are eliminated.
Please stand with us to ensure that you are on the right side of history.