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Focus on Fairfax Newsletter of Delegate David Bulova
September 2007

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

I hope everyone enjoyed a safe and happy Labor Day. This Saturday, September 8th, I will be at Main Street Bagel from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. for my monthly informal office hours. The format is casual and no appointment is needed. Please feel free to stop by to ask questions or to give me your feedback on issues affecting our community.

Last week, the Virginia Tech Review Panel released its final report on the tragedy that took so many innocent, promising lives on the morning of April 16, 2007. It is a thorough report, and while it is long (147 pages without the appendices), it presents a compelling blueprint for what we as Virginians need to do to make our colleges and universities safer. In a free society, we recognize that it is never possible to anticipate every possible threat. But we can learn from our mistakes and hopefully prevent future tragedies.

The report outlines 21 key findings and makes more than 70 individual recommendations. Several of these findings stopped me cold in their bluntness. However, the most telling was this assessment of Virginia’s mental health care system: “Virginia’s mental health laws are flawed and services for mental health users are inadequate. Lack of sufficient resources results in gaps in the mental health system including short term crisis stabilization and comprehensive outpatient services. The involuntary commitment process is challenged by unrealistic time constraints, lack of critical psychiatric data and collateral information, and barriers (perceived and real) to open communications among professionals.”

Over the past few decades, Virginia’s mental health system has shifted from focusing on psychiatric hospitals to community-based treatment. Although this has the potential to provide better care, chronic under-funding has left Virginia’s system unable to adequately care for those most in need. Virginia ranks 30th in the nation for the amount it spends per capita on mental health treatment, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. However, as the General Assembly begins its deliberations it is important not only to ask what additional funding is needed, but whether the existing system delivers the right services. In particular, we need to ensure that adequate resources are available for timely emergency care so that we can prevent someone with a treatable mental illness from becoming a danger to the community.

The report goes on to make recommendations in the areas of emergency response planning, emergency communications, emergency medical response, police training and response, mental heath care services provided by colleges and universities, and Virginia’s mental health and privacy laws. The report also makes specific recommendations for closing the ambiguity in the Code of Virginia that allowed Seung Hui Cho to purchase a gun even though he had been involuntarily committed for outpatient treatment. This is a top priority for the 2008 Session.

While it is easy to concentrate on what didn’t work, there were many brave first responders, public servants, and ordinary people who performed with distinction and with great courage. I think that Governor Kaine summed it up best in his foreword to the report: “We must now challenge ourselves to study this report carefully and make changes that will reduce the risk of future violence on our campuses. If we act in that way, we will honor the lives and sacrifices of all who suffered on that terrible day and advance the notion of service that is Virginia Tech’s fundamental mission.” As the delegate representing George Mason University, I look forward to working with my colleagues in the General Assembly to make those changes.

The report can be found in its entirety on the Governor’s website at If you would like a hard copy of the report, please do not hesitate to call my office at (703) 310-6752.


David Bulova

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Delegate David Bulova

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Fairfax Office
9900 Main Street,
Plaza 102
Fairfax, VA 22031
(703) 310-6752
[email protected]

Richmond Office (During General Assembly Session)
Capitol Square, General Assembly Building
Room 405
Richmond, VA 23219
(804) 698-1037
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