Analyzing mental health policy in Virginia: The Relevance of Public Health in Politics

Author: Hannah Guthrie
Major: Political Science and Public Health Studies
Approved: Spring 2020
Status: In progress

Mental health care has received greater attention in Virginia’s State Legislature since the creation of the Joint Committee to Study Mental Health in the Twenty-First Century, also known as the Deeds Commission, in 2014. However, mental health care delivery remains inherently fragmented and inconsistent throughout the Commonwealth. Virginia’s General Assembly has taken a top-down approach to consolidate services with the System Transformation, Excellence and Performance (STEP-VA) initiative, which ensures relative uniformity and widespread adaptability of mental health services. Yet, such an approach neglects to consider the influence of population classifications (i.e. urban, rural, suburban) on the demand for mental health resources and providers.

This project will survey mental health care providers, who regularly navigate the fragmented mental health system, to better understand place-based barriers to providing mental health services in Virginian localities. The provider-identified barriers will be compared to the objectives outlined in STEP-VA to discover potential areas for program improvement. A policy proposal will then be provided to the Deeds Commission, summarizing key survey findings, identifying common themes among populations based on urban-rural classifications, and suggest areas for further development to increase the efficiency and reliability of mental health services in Virginia.