Poll: Virginians want mental health, ethics reforms

WASHINGTON — Virginians strongly support new ethics and mental health reforms, but are still quite divided on whether Medicaid benefits should be expanded to more residents, according to a new Roanoke College Poll.

The poll surveyed 633 residents in Virginia between Jan. 13 and Jan. 17.

The Roanoke College Poll also found that 81 percent of those polled are in favor of extending the length of emergency custody in mental health cases to 24 hours from the current six hours. As for the number of psychiatric beds, 81 percent are in favor of a new registry that shows the number of available beds at any given time, and 70 percent are in favor of a $38 million increase in the mental health care budget.

The recent death of Va. state Sen. Creigh Deeds’ son two months ago after he attacked his father and took his own life, has spurred calls for reforms to the state’s mental health laws. Deeds took to the Senate just last week to support a measure that would extend the state’s emergency custody laws to 24 hours. Before the attack, Deeds’ son Austin Deeds was released from emergency custody — Deeds feels prematurely — because a psychiatric bed could not be found for him at the hospital.

Dr. Harry Wilson, director of the Institute of Policy and Opinion Research at Roanoke College, tells WTOP that a majority of people polled also want limits on the value and kinds of gifts that elected officials and their family members receive, and they want mandatory reports when officials and their families get such gifts.

This, of course, is playing out in a soon-to-be courtroom drama involving former Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, who have both been indicted on 14 counts of federal corruption charges involving the receipt of gifts and cash from a corporate donor.

But when it comes to expanding Medicaid coverage beyond the number of low-income residents now receiving state-funded health benefits, voters are split. Some 30 percent want Medicaid expanded now, 33 percent say only when the program is reformed, and 26 percent say they don’t want the expansion at all.

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