New Poll Shows Four in Five Virginia Voters Support Significant New State Investments to Fund Behavioral Health System Improvement
February 7, 2023
Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy Finds that 83 Percent of Virginians Polled Back a State Budget Proposal to Invest $230 Million in New Funding to Enhance Access to Mental Health Care and Substance Abuse Services Across the Commonwealth; It is the Second Recent Poll of Virginians Reflecting Strong Support for State Investment in the Behavioral Health System
RICHMOND, VA – A recent poll shows that four out of five Virginia voters support the idea of state leaders making significant new investments in expanding and improving access to mental health care and substance abuse treatment services in the Commonwealth.
The statewide poll from Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy shows that 83 percent of respondents support the concept of a state budget proposal to invest $230 million in new funding to strengthen Virginia’s behavioral health care system. It is the second recent statewide poll in which strong majorities of Virginia voters expressed support for these proposed state investments to enhance and expand behavioral health care access. A survey of Virginia voters conducted in January by co/efficient found that more than three-fourths (76 percent) of respondents expressed support for cooperation between the Virginia House of Delegates and the state Senate to approve a package of proposed state budget amendments to fund behavioral health care investments.
As with the co/efficient poll, the Mason-Dixon survey found that support for these investments is strong across demographic groups including gender (86 percent support among women, 82 percent among men), partisan identification (96 percent support among Democrats, 79 percent among Republicans, and 76 percent for independents), and across age groups, ethnic groups, and all regions of the Commonwealth.
In December, Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin presented his “Right Help, Right Now” plan, a package of budget amendments totaling $230 million in new behavioral health system investments over three years. The call for new behavioral health system investments comes at a time when Mental Health America ranks Virginia 34th among states in access to mental health care, and when data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that the share of adults receiving mental health treatment in the previous 12 months has risen each year from 2019-2021. At the same time, health care providers, including behavioral health providers, continue to struggle with staffing shortages that impact treatment capacity. The governor’s proposal is now pending in the Virginia General Assembly, where focus will shift to amending the two-year state budget as the legislature transitions to the scheduled final weeks of the 2023 regular legislative session.
In other results, the Mason-Dixon poll shows that:
- 84 percent of voters surveyed said they would be more likely to support the plan due to its proposed inclusion of funding for more than 30 new mobile crisis teams to respond to calls to Virginia’s 9-8-8 Suicide and Crisis Hotline to provide urgent help to people in need.
- 84 percent of respondents said they would be more likely to support the plan because it calls for new funding to support mental health patient transportation to relieve the burden on police officers who are often called on to help transport individuals in crisis.
- 87 percent said they would be more likely to support the plan because it calls for $15 million to expand mental health services for school age students in need.
- 76 percent said the proposal’s inclusion of $58 million to increase and fund the number of crisis receiving centers and crisis stabilization units across Virginia makes them more likely to support the plan.
- 81 percent indicated they would be more likely to support the plan because it calls for $15 million in funding to combat the opioid crisis and support programming to reduce fentanyl positioning among young people.
- And 85 percent noted they would be more likely to support the proposal because it is designed to strengthen the behavioral health workforce, expand telehealth services to serve more patients, and provide same-day services to patients in crisis.
The recent statewide public opinion poll conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy is the latest in a series of surveys commissioned by VHHA to help identify health care issues of concern to Virginians and to inform the Association’s approach to public policy engagement. The poll of 625 registered Virginia voters was conducted January 18-21, 2023 and featured live landline and cell phone interviews with Virginians from all regions of the state representing the ethnic, gender, age, geographic, and political diversity of the Commonwealth.
About VHHA: The Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association is an alliance of 110 hospitals and 26 health delivery systems that develops and advocates for sound health care policy in the Commonwealth. Its mission is to achieve excellence in both health care and health to make Virginia the healthiest state in the nation. Its vision is through collaboration with members and stakeholders, to ensure the sustainability of Virginia health care system, transform the delivery of care to promote lower costs and high value across the continuum of care, and to improve health for all Virginians. Connect with VHHA through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Instagram.
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