Virginia earned the top rating — “Meets Requirements”– for the 11th consecutive year on a federal report card looking at outcomes for students with disabilities.
“Results-driven accountability looks beyond compliance with the provisions of IDEA [Individuals with Disabilities Education Act] to see whether the efforts of special educators at the state and local levels are actually improving outcomes for students with disabilities. This latest federal rating shows that Virginia’s special educators continue to do just that,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow said in a Virginia Department of Education [VDOE] press release. “I think every school in the Commonwealth can take a page from the special education playbook by providing individualized instruction plans and tailored interventions for all students.”
As part of his “Investment Week” announcing American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) allocation proposals, Governor Ralph Northam announced $862 million for Virginia’s unemployment insurance trust fund, depleted during COVID-19.
“Shoring up the Commonwealth’s unemployment insurance trust fund is a smart investment that will prevent Virginia businesses from paying higher taxes and allow our economy to continue surging,” Northam said in a Tuesday announcement.
Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services Commissioner Alison Land asked for about $216 million in American Recovery Plan Act funds in a presentation to legislators. Her number-one ask was $75 million to increase salaries to retain and attract staff to Virginia’s troubled mental health facilities.
A week ago, Land closed admissions at five of the state’s eight mental health facilities. On Thursday, she told the Joint Subcommittee to Study Mental Health Services in the 21st Century those closures were necessary to help reduce the number of patients at dangerously understaffed facilities.
Five of Virginia’s eight state-owned adult mental health hospitals will be closed to new admissions temporarily, due to staff shortages. On Friday, Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services Commissioner Allison Land sent a letter announcing the shortages, citing 1,547 direct patient support staff vacancies out of about 5,500 state staff, with 108 resignations occurring in the past two weeks. Contract staff are also leaving, due to “unrelenting stress, required overtime,” and a “dangerous environment.”
Virginia’s eight state-run mental health hospitals are operating at near-peak capacity, while operating at just 60 to 75 percent staffing levels, according to a presentation Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services Commissioner Alison Land gave legislators on Tuesday.
“We’ve been working on this issue for years and years before I came, and the picture just keeps looking bleaker, and not better, I have to say,” Land said.
State health facilities operated by the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS) were tipped off with advance knowledge on unannounced COVID-19 protocol inspections, according to a report from the Office of the State Inspector General (OSIG) released last Thursday.
The report claimed that DBHDS personnel shared detailed information regarding inspections with as many as 11 facilities throughout the Commonwealth.