RICHMOND, JUNE 11 -- The administration of Gov. Gerald L. Baliles is considering a plan to nearly double Virginia's now "totally inadequate" support for some local health services through an infusion of $140 million by 1990, according to internal state government documents.
The memoranda, one of which offers a sharply critical assessment of the mental health, mental retardation and drug abuse programs that an estimated 350,000 Virginians will need by 1992, suggest that the administration may be prepared to ask the General Assembly to add record sums of state money to the current two-year $160 million program for such services.
"Existing financial resources are totally inadequate to address identified and projected service demands" during the next six years, wrote Howard M. Cullum, the state's commissioner of mental health and mental retardation, in a May 1 memo to his boss, Human Resources Secretary Eva S. Teig.
A copy of the memo and a subsequent outline of Teig's 1988-90 budget priorities were obtained today by The Washington Post.
In his memo, Cullum described local services for the chronically mentally ill as "inadequate in almost every community" in the state, adding there are "significant gaps" in specialized services for those individuals.
For mentally retarded people, "long waiting lists for day programs are the norm across Virginia," Cullum wrote. Existing treatment for alcoholics, he added, "is insufficient throughout Virginia."
Cullum painted a bleak picture to support his agency's request for $140 million in new money for 1989 and 1990, the years covered by the most important budget Baliles will draft during his four-year administration. Virginia governors may not succeed themselves.
Baliles, who is eager for that biennial budget to reflect his own progressive agenda, is under mounting pressure from a coalition of advocacy groups to plow millions of new dollars into community-based programs for the mentally ill and the handicapped. The initiatives proposed by Cullum mesh with the groups' strategy to increase dra-"I think $140 million is going to give everybody pause . . . . "
-- Del. Warren G. Stambaugh
matically state assistance for the mentally ill, one advocate said.
"The elements are right," said Christopher J. Spanos, a Northern Virginian who has helped lead the lobbying by the Coalition for Mentally Disabled Citizens of Virginia, an umbrella group for 11 advocacy organizations across the state.
"We've got people at the highest levels of government who understand the need," Spanos said. But, he added, "we don't know how the governor responds -- $140 million in a biennium is a big hunk of money."
In a telephone interview today, Teig stressed that it was far too early in the months-long budget process "to even begin speculating about priorities" or how Baliles and the legislature will balance agencies' competing requests for new funds.
However, according to a May 15 memo she sent to Paul W. Timmreck, director of the state Planning and Budget Department, Teig has assigned Cullum's community program initiatives the highest priority for new funding.
Of the 75 program initiatives outlined in her memo, Teig assigned only three others a No. 1 ranking in the human resources budget, according to the document.
"There are no commitments at this time that these initiatives will be funded all or in part," Teig said today. "But certainly there is a strong interest on our part in taking a hard look at community-based programs."
Community health programs have become increasingly important in recent years because they constitute the front line in assisting the hundreds of mentally ill people released from state facilities during a wave of deinstitutionalization in the 1970s and earlier this decade.
In Virginia, the state and federal funds earmarked for these individuals are administered through 40 community service boards, and the state government's control over these local agencies has been a sore point with some members of the General Assembly. The issue could resurface if Baliles seeks a major new appropriation for community-based care, according to several legislators.
"I think $140 million is going to give everybody pause, but there probably would be general support for it," said Del. Warren G. Stambaugh (D-Arlington), a leading spokesman in the legislature on mental health issues.
"The political thing is still going to be the authority we give to the community service boards," he added. "It will not be an easy fight if we see that money going to the boards . . . and the state losing some control."