Gov. Youngkin makes stop in Suffolk in support of Right Help, Right Now

Published 7:35 pm Thursday, June 13, 2024

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SUFFOLK, Virginia — Gov. Glenn Youngkin made a stop at the Western Tidewater Community Services Board Harbour View Mental Health Center Thursday, signing 31 bipartisan bills supporting his Right Help, Right Now behavioral health transformation initiative. Created to help reform the state’s current behavioral health system, the initiative’s goal is to provide support before, during and after a mental health crisis while also reducing the criminalization of mental health in Virginia. During his speech, Youngkin expressed his hope for people to call the 988 hotline to find help when struggling with a mental health crisis.

“When someone needs help, I want them to feel unencumbered in their ability to find someone to speak with. When someone needs help, I want them to know that they can get the right help, right now. No matter their age, their background, their race, their gender, their ZIP code,” Youngkin said. “Nothing should stand in their way. It impacts everyone. We all are answering this call. All of us.”

Youngkin also expressed his goal to address the negative effects of social media on Virginia children.

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“We know that there is significant, significant damage and challenge that is done here,” he said. “We must act decisively … So today, I am directing Secretary [John] Littel to launch a task force. A task force that will study the issue of social media and its impact on our children closely. To assess best practices from other states around the Commonwealth and pilot programs that have been going on to work with the private sector. To partner with our education teams, to partner with our general assembly, to engage stakeholders in all aspects of this challenge and formulate a plan.”

Youngkin took comments following the ceremony. On his future goals to de-stigmatize mental health in Virginia, Youngkin says it’s important to first equip themselves to “deliver Right Help, Right Now.”


“There is a whole capacity expansion that’s necessary: that’s capabilities and facilities of crisis receiving centers being built all over the Commonwealth. Psychiatric hospitals being built across the Commonwealth. It’s mobile crisis capabilities, so that we can go to where Virginians are and keep them out of hospitals. So important,” Youngkin said. “When we keep them out of hospitals, we also can do a huge thing and that’s keeping them out of our criminal justice system as well.”

Youngkin also notes expanding workforce capabilities and relieving law enforcement from mental health situations.

“ … how do we relieve law enforcement from a role that really is a role that they don’t really want to be in either, which is a TDO, temporary detainment order, and the opportunity for us here is to, one of the bills we signed, is to have alternative transportation to make sure that in fact, we can relieve a law enforcement officer from being in that position and have someone in a better place. Our crisis receiving centers always have a special receiving center for law enforcement. Again, quicker, more ready access to get the right help, right now.”

Among the celebrated bills was Irvo’s Law, which gives family members access to their loved ones going through a mental health crisis. The bill is named in honor of Irvo Otieno, a 28-year-old Black man who was killed after being handcuffed and pinned to the floor after being admitted to a psychiatric hospital in 2023.

Caroline Ouko, Otieno’s mother, talked about getting to this moment for her son.

“I know he’s watching down on us, and knowing him, I know he is smiling down on us. So this is a great, great, great bill and I am thankful for everybody that has been involved in making this become possible,” Ouko said. “This bill is going to empower doctors and nurses to focus on taking care of their patients and not pay attention to outside noise …”

WTCSB Associate Executive Director Brandon Rodgers says it was an honor to host Youngkin and his recognition of the need for people to be served. He likewise noted Ouko speaking out about her son’s tragedy.

“It’s so moving to know that the work we continue to do here at Western Tidewater and across the Commonwealth really touches lives and makes a difference in what we need to do, and we still have a ways to go,” Rodgers said.

Along with the Marcus Alert System implementation on July 1, Rodgers noted partnerships that WTCSB currently has in the works.

“We’re working on a partnership right now with Paul D. Camp Community College to further behavior tech programs, and that’s going to help our workforce. It’s going to help to grow the people that are here to do the work that needs to be done…,” he said. “We’ve also been pushing clinical workforce development. So, we do a lot of training on anxiety, depression, trauma, all of these things and the more that we educate individuals in our communities, the more the stigma is broken down and the more that people are willing to come and get the help, and, we know how to treat it.”