CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — Experts and state officials say Virginia has improved its mental health system since the mass shooting at Virginia Tech in 2007. But funding shortages and other issues remain.
Reforms include changing the standard for involuntary commitment, and improving and clarifying procedures for mandatory outpatient treatment. But many people needing care are placed on waiting lists.
Mental health care is not available in most areas for people who cannot afford private care. Or, care isn't available in a timely manner, said Richard J. Bonnie, a University of Virginia law professor who is chairman of Virginia's Commission on Mental Health Law Reform.
"A lot has changed, and significant reforms occurred, and there have been significant improvements, but there is a still a long way to go," Bonnie told The Daily Progress (http://bit.ly/TfE6Gv )
State House Minority Leader David J. Toscano, D-Charlottesville, said the state has not been able to keep pace with the need.
"And there's always the concern that we could have another person ... fall through the cracks, and if he or she can get access to these high-power weapons you worry about the possibility of something like this happening again," Toscano told the newspaper.
Research shows that children should be reached early but a program called Part C, which is aimed at young children, is underfunded by $500,000 in Region Ten, said Robert Johnson, executive director of the Region Ten Community Services Board.
Children are on a waiting list for care while the program recently left go about half of its staff, he said.
Officials hope that the governor and the General Assembly will find extra money for mental health care.