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VA Parents' Plea: Crisis Money for Kids

PHOTO: Fairfax County mother Cristy Gallagher is pressing the General Assembly to boost crisis funding for children with mental illness. Photo credit: Gallagher
PHOTO: Fairfax County mother Cristy Gallagher is pressing the General Assembly to boost crisis funding for children with mental illness. Photo credit: Gallagher
March 17, 2014

RICHMOND, Va. - When the General Assembly reconvenes next week, it will decide whether to okay a boost in mental health crisis funding for kids. Fairfax County mom Cristy Gallagher said the money is critical for families such as hers that have a child who is sometimes in desperate need of immediate psychiatric help.

"For children that pull knives out, children that run into the street or try and jump out of the window, our only option now, and in many places around the state, is to call the police," Gallagher said.

Gallagher's daughter suffers from bipolar disorder. The Virginia Senate already has approved an additional $1.5 million in crisis funding for children to its mental health care budget. Gallagher said the House needs to do the same.

There is only one mobile mental health crisis-response team for children in Fairfax County, and similar help is not available at all in other communities.

"This funding would add dollars to those crisis mobile teams across the state and additional money for psychiatric care for youngsters," Gallagher explained.

Voices for Virginia's Children Executive Director Margaret Nimmo Crowe said the General Assembly's past investments in mental health care for younger children have resulted in fewer kids needing to be hospitalized, but more funding is needed.

"It's a modest amount of money that gets an amazing return on investment," Nimmo Crowe said. "For some kids, this treatment is helping them stay in school and live up to their potential. For other kids, it's literally saving their lives."

The National Institute of Mental Health reports half of all mental illness begins before age 14. Nimmo Crowe said most mental health funding in Virginia goes to adults.

Alison Burns, Public News Service - VA