Author Archives: sherlockj

State Mental Health Plan Too large, Complex to Succeed?

by James C. Sherlock

I really want Virginia’s mental health program to work. It looks like a major struggle, however.

I will recommend a major change: state control of the Community Services Boards (CSB)s.  I think that will be necessary for the plan to have any chance of succeeding.

I have just finished reading a draft 409-page report to the federal government that describes planned efforts to expand and improve the state’s mental health care system. It has been developed by the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS) for the signature of the Secretary of Health and Human resources.

Three things jump off the pages — all of the hard things are to happen going forward, the complexity of the program will be enormous and the state will not have enough control to make it happen.

Continue reading

Marijuana and Casino Legalization Linked to Increases in Mental Illness and Substance Abuse

Paul Krizek (D-Pamunkey Nation)

by James C. Sherlock

We know what is going to happen.

Dr. Daniel Carey M.D., Virginia’s Secretary of Health and Human Resources, will soon apply to the federal government for funding for substance abuse prevention grants.

He knows.

He plans to tell the federal government that additional people, mostly poor and Black, are going to suffer and die from mental illness and substance abuse because we legalized marijuana, casinos and sports betting.

But apparently we did it for a good cause — equity — or so some say.

The opening statement of that draft application reads:

Statewide Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on Behavioral Health and Substance Use

The unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting health impact, uncertainty, social isolation, and economic distress are expected to substantially increase the behavioral health needs of Virginians. Increased alcohol, substance use, including increased overdose rates are key concerns, as well as COVID-19 impacts already evident in Virginia.

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What Does Northam’s Masking Order Mean for 70,000 School Kids with Disabilities? Does Northam Even Know?

Governor Ralph Northam…. Oh, our bad, that’s a weasel.

by James C. Sherlock

My own preferred policy for schools is mandatory vaccination for school staff, recommended vaccinations for the kids and voluntary masks for everyone.

One of the advantages of that is that it is executable.

One of the disadvantages is that I have no influence whatever over the governor or health commissioner. Pretty big disadvantage.

But Virginia’s current order for schools is purposely garbled when addressing accommodations for disabled children, and the health commissioner understood that when he signed it for the governor.

The authors of that document had no idea how to handle the mask issue for the over 70,000 kids in Virginia public schools were labeled as “disabled” last year.

So they punted. Continue reading

Shots and Masks in Richmond Schools

Why is this man smiling?

by James C. Sherlock

Belt and suspenders?

Vaccinations and masks now are both mandatory in Richmond Public Schools. Vaccinations because the school board ordered it last night. Masks because the Governor ordered it last week.

The vaccination order, though many oppose it, has science behind it. Vaccinations work. For the vaccinated, though, the mask wearing mandate is purely political – and political theater. The mask mandate did not presume vaccination mandates.

Cue the squeaking from the “yeah, but” crowd.

Let’s look a these one at a time.

Vaccinations – Richmond

After a vote last night by the school board, nearly all employees of Richmond Public Schools (RPS) must be vaccinated by Oct. 1.

I wish them godspeed.

This policy, with which I agree, is a major experiment with a very short time horizon, an unknown baseline and an unknown outcome. Continue reading

Are We Willing to Require Health Care Workers to Get Vaccinated If There Are No Replacements?

by James C. Sherlock

Sometimes reality trumps policy. The headline asks a question for which I do not have an answer.

My personal position is that all health care workers and all school workers should get vaccinated. Reality suggests that changing the verb from “should” to “must” depends on the availability of replacements, the necessity of the service and risks and rewards of both options.

Replacements are the problem in Virginia.

The Washington Post published an articleGet the vaccine or get fired? In Shenandoah Valley, some nurses choose termination.

So, there it is. The stark choice.

But Nurse Journal reports that Virginia has the 9th lowest number of nurses per 100,000 people of all the states/D.C. at 10.52 per 100,000. Continue reading

Virginia Beach and Afghanistan

by James C. Sherlock

It was never a Navy war.

But in this Navy town, it was brought literally home to us again and again. We are home to nearly half of the Navy SEALs, including SEAL Team 6.

Something like 4,000 to 5,000 total plus their families.

SEALs are America’s special operations forces specially trained for undersea, coastal, river and swamp operations. They train on our beaches, in our swamps, bays and ocean. Some of us can hear their live gunfire at night.

Folks in the Navy flight paths hear big transports take off at 4:00 in the morning, guess that’s them going God knows where, wish them well, and try to go back to sleep.

About 15 years ago, I went through physical rehab in a civilian facility here with one of them, a Chief Petty Officer who you would not have recognized as a sailor. He and I were there for different types of injuries.

I was retired and rehabbing a knee operated on for arthritis. He was rehabbing muscle damage from a bullet wound. Affected his trigger finger. Continue reading

Return to Autocracy in Virginia

Why is this man smiling?

by James C. Sherlock.
Updated Aug 13, 12:15 PM

It was so easy to predict that I can claim no special prescience. I wrote a week ago:

“The Governor’s 15-month emergency powers expired June 30, and, God, does he miss them…. (H)ow long (will the) governor put up with the lack of emergency powers?”

If you guessed a week, you win.

Today’s headline: Virginia Gov. Orders Mask Mandate for State’s K-12 Schools

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam on Thursday announced a public health emergency order to require masks in all indoor settings for the state’s K-12 schools.

The Governor has a legal basis for the order, § 32.1-13 of the Code of Virginia. The State Health Commissioner, acting for the Board of Health when it is not in session (§ 32.1-20 of the Code of Virginia),

may make separate orders and regulations to meet any emergency, not provided for by general regulations, for the purpose of suppressing nuisances dangerous to the public health and communicable, contagious and infectious diseases and other dangers to the public life and health.

If you are wondering, the Board of Health meets four times a year for a couple of days each meeting. And there is no mention of a role for the General Assembly.

This is not the same law that Northam used for 15 months. New ball game. Continue reading

Can’t Anybody Here Play This Game? Virginia’s 211 – Service or Crapshoot?

by James C. Sherlock

Sometimes the government of Virginia just makes you want to scream, cry, stay under the covers, whatever.

Navigating government and private social services agencies when you need help is hard, even more so a crisis. But it is way harder in Virginia than it needs to be.

To streamline the navigation process, the Federal Communications Commission in 2000 created 211, a number reserved for helplines that offer information or referrals to health and social support programs.

Given a layup, Virginia has clanged the ball off the bottom of the rim. Continue reading

Virginia’s Continuing Mental Health Crisis

Credit: Adobe clipart

by James C. Sherlock

I like government at every level to address only things it must. Then I want it to be world class in efficiency and effectiveness. It has been clear since the ’60’s that I am destined to be repeatedly frustrated on both counts.

We come to an old issue in Virginia, the shortage of appropriate treatment options for the mentally ill. The COVID-driven increase in mental illness has brought this issue back front and center.

Why is the Commonwealth so reliably awful when it comes to strategy, management and funding of state health programs? Even under federal court orders in the case of mental health?

Some of that is incompetence, but some is lack of interest — investigations and funding — by our governors and General Assemblies of both parties.

Most of us discovered the shortage in severe mental illness capacity in 2013 when Sen. Creigh Deeds’ son killed himself and injured his father. That incident that was preventable if there had been a psychiatric bed available.

That was not the first time the Commonwealth knew about it. There was that pesky federal investigation and court order. Continue reading

Northam Asks Good Questions About Amended Medicaid Budget

by James C. Sherlock

Governor Ralph Northam has raised an important issue relative to the budget negotiations. He has asked that the final bill not include an extension of a 12.5% increase in rates for Medicaid home- and community-based services for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities. The General Assembly put it in there anyway.  

That amendment, submitted by Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Mount Solon, extends the expiration date for the increases from the end of calendar year 2021 to the end of the fiscal year on June 30, 2022. Hanger’s amendment claims that: 

“The costs of extending the rates are covered by the state savings in Medicaid from the 12 months of enhanced federal match for Medicaid Home and Community-based services included in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.”

That is a budget offset of “free” money from federal taxes and the deficit, but not defense of the program itself.    Continue reading

Coming to Virginia – a New State of Emergency?

Why is this man smiling?

by James C. Sherlock

The Governor’s 15-month emergency powers expired June 30, and, God, does he miss them.

From The Virginian-Pilot:

“School districts that aren’t requiring masks, including several in Hampton Roads, are running afoul of state law, Gov. Ralph Northam said Thursday.”

OK.

The bigger questions are

  • how long the governor will put up with the lack of emergency powers;
  • when he will start to follow Virginia’s Pandemic Emergency Annex to its Emergency Operations Plan; and
  • is the General Assembly even interested?

Continue reading

Critical Theory in Education – Clarity of Purpose Is Progressives’ One Virtue

by James C. Sherlock

Did you read the over 100 comments beneath The Left Is Lying: CRT Is Peddling Hate in Our Schools earlier today in this space?

Quite a dogfight.

Do you notice how the left tries to pretend that applied critical theory in education, which incorporates CRT but is about much more, is about only the teaching of history?

The organizing principle, dogma really, of the critical theorists creating Virginia educational policy at VDOE is that American society is oppressive and must be dismantled through the K-12 public schools.

That is one reason why those same policies deny the exercise by parents of their roles, obligations and rights at every turn. Parents form the very American society that the left wants to dismantle.

We should stop the diversions and deal with what the left writes clearly that it is attempting. Continue reading

The Mayor of Alexandria Anticipated my Column

by James C. Sherlock

We scribblers at Bacon’s Rebellion pride ourselves on being leaders in the progressive thought process. In acknowledgment of the wisdom in my column that called out the observable inefficiency of government, I give you:

The city of Alexandria, Virginia, is joining a growing number of cities across the U.S. that are sending money to poor residents, no strings attached.

Bolstered by nearly $60 million in federal pandemic relief money, the independent jurisdiction in Northern Virginia plans to begin sending $500 debit cards to 150 families each month for two years, starting sometime this fall. The initiative was inspired partly by feedback city leaders solicited from residents about how the cash infusion should be used, says Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson.

The national conversation about cash assistance has been changing, Wilson says. Last year, former Stockton mayor Michael D. Tubbs launched a national network of city leaders called Mayors for a Guaranteed Income. The coalition has grown to include mayors from almost 60 cities, from Los Angeles to Jackson, Mississippi. Mayors in the coalition are part of a generation of leaders who are thinking more about how to get immediate assistance to people in need, rather than forcing them into complex government programs that ration public assistance through layers of bureaucracy, Wilson says.

Continue reading

The Accelerating Scale of the Legislate-Regulate-Spend-and-Repeat Cycle Has Broken Government

by James C. Sherlock

Virginians – the state and individual citizens – have received over $81 billion in COVID-related federal funding. That comes to $9,507 for every man, woman and child in the Commonwealth.  Big money. 

That was Virginia’s share of $5.3 trillion in federal spending just on the pandemic (so far). A trillion dollars is a million million dollars. A thousand billion dollars.

For comparison, GDP was about $21 trillion in 2020  It is projected to total just short of $23 trillion this year.  The national debt is $29 trillion and growing. A little over $86,000 for every American. That figure does not include the $5 trillion in additional spending pending in the Congress.

Every day we spend $1 billion on interest with interest on the 10-year treasuries at 1.18% today. The Congressional budget office predicts 3.6% before 2027. Do the math. That is $3 billion a day — well over a trillion dollars a year — in interest. 

Relax. If you thought I was about to launch off on a discussion of drunken sailors, writing checks that our grandkids will have to make good, and the fact that inflation will drive interest payments ever upward, be reassured I am not.

This is about the demonstrated inability of many government agencies at every level to regulate, administer, oversee, spend and repeat with anything approaching efficiency or effectiveness.  Continue reading

VDOE’s Plan to Impose Social Reconstructionist Dogma on School Children

OK, kids, raise your hand if you can spell  i-n-d-o-c-t-r-i-n-a-t-i-o-n.

by James C. Sherlock

The 2020 General Assembly required the Virginia Department of Education to develop and publish standards for Social Emotional Learning (SEL) that start in Kindergarten and go through 12th grade.

VDOE has done so, disregarding entirely hundreds of comments on Virginia Town Hall on the draft of those standards that had a 10-to-one negative-to-positive ratio.

Town Hall in theory allows citizens to influence regulations. VDOE changed not one word from the draft.

Good news:  Virginia school divisions are not required to adopt the standards — yet. Bad news: Some will. Continue reading