Virginians Overwhelmingly Support New State Investments to Expand Mental Health Care and Substance Abuse Services Amid Rising Demand for Behavioral Health Treatment

January 23, 2023

Statewide Survey from co/efficient Shows More Than Three-Fourths (76 Percent) of Virginia Voters Polled Support a $230 Million Proposal to Strengthen Behavioral Health Access and Treatment, 72 Percent Say Enhancing Behavioral Health Services Across the Continuum of Care Should be a “High Priority” for the General Assembly

RICHMOND, VA – There is widespread, bipartisan support among Virginia voters for state government action to make significant new investments in expanding access to treatment and services for people experiencing mental health and substance use challenges, according to the results of a recent statewide poll.

A public opinion survey conducted this month by co/efficient found that upon hearing the details of a $230 million state budget proposal to enhance behavioral health services, 76 percent of respondents expressed support for cooperation between the Virginia House of Delegates and the state Senate to approve the plan. Support for the proposal is strong across gender groups (77 percent support among women, 74 percent among men), partisan affiliation (78 percent support among Republicans, 77 percent among Democrats, and 74 percent for independents), as well as across age groups, ethnic groups, and across all regions of the Commonwealth.

Virginia is currently ranked 37th among states in access to mental health services, according to the 2022 Mental Health America state rankings. Meanwhile, 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. This rise in demand for treatment services is occurring as health care providers, including behavioral health providers, continue to struggle with staffing shortages that impact treatment capacity.

The numbers showing strong voter support for more state investment in behavioral health services are among the findings of a poll that also asked registered Virginia voters about their own mental wellness, their thoughts on behavioral health care access in their communities, and their opinions about specific provisions of a state budget proposal to make new investments in state behavioral health services. Among the many items awaiting consideration by the Virginia General Assembly in the 2023 legislative session is the “Right Help, Right Now” plan, which is a package of budget amendments offered by Governor Glenn Youngkin totaling $230 million in new behavioral health system investments over three years.

In other results, the poll shows that:

  • Nearly three-fourths (72 percent) of Virginians polled said they believe that improving access to behavioral health services should be a “high priority” for the General Assembly, with strong support for legislative action across age, gender, political, and regional groups.
  • 70 percent of the 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.
  • 72 percent of the voters polled said they would be more likely to support the plan because it calls for funding to support mental health patient transportation to relieve the burden on police officers who often have to help transport patients in crisis.
  • 77 percent of those surveyed said they would be more likely to support the plan based on its intention to develop more community-based service capacity, enhance substance abuse services, and strengthen the behavioral health workforce.
  • And 81 percent said they would be more likely to support the proposal because it is designed to enhance access to same-day care for people in need, expand telehealth behavioral health treatment access, and provide housing support to people with serious mental illness.

The recent statewide public opinion poll conducted by co/efficient 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 598 registered Virginia voters was conducted January 12-16, 2023 and featured live landline and cell phone text message 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.


Julian Walker
Vice President of Communications
(804) 297-3193 office
(804) 304-7402 mobile