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Pleas for mental health funding and more school counselors as Virginia lawmakers weigh budget

Daily Press - 1/3/2019

Jan. 03--There were tears and thanks, as well as tales of triumphs and unmet needs, as Virginians from across Hampton Roads asked state lawmakers to fund programs including mental health support, school counselors and alternatives to juvenile incarceration.

Thursday's hearing at Christopher Newport University was one of four held across the state to help legislators prepare for a central task of the legislative session that begins next week: writing a budget for state government.

The hearing was a joint meeting of the Senate Finance Committee and the House's Appropriations and Finance committees, together known as the "money committees."

"We Virginians take care of our own, don't we?" said Kathy Powell, mother of a Virginia Beach woman with disabilities who is living independently thanks to funding through a Medicaid waiver for support services.

Powell asked the legislators to consider funding more waivers.

"People with disabilities like me want to live the same kind of life as you," said Dorothy Clark, a Virginia Beach woman who asked for more of the kind of job coaching programs that helped her make the transition from school to an independent adult life despite her intellectual disability.

Jane Hobbs of Hampton asked for more Medicaid waivers to help people with intellectual disabilities find places in sheltered workshops. She said she has to pay $300 a week so that her 53-year-old daughter can have a place in one.

Asking for more support for mental health programs, Zeda Gardner broke down in tears, as House Appropriations Committee chairman Chris Jones, R-Suffolk, gently told her to take her time to say her piece.

George Parker, superintendent of Newport News Public Schools, asked legislators to use the bulk of any revenue increase from internet sales tax collections to fund school needs.

This story will be updated.

Dave Ress, 757-247-4535, dress@dailypress.com

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