Students Craft Mental Health Legislation in Virginia

01/24/2014

Two University of Virginia students, Jarrod Nagurka and Rachel Deitch, both of Arlington, helped craft a bipartisan mental health bill that Del. Patrick Hope (D-47) and Del. Joseph R. Yost (R-12) have introduced to the Virginia House of Delegates.

The legislation, officially called HB 206, will require Virginia institutions of higher education to dedicate a portion of their websites to mental health resources available to students on campus. Additionally, the bill requires college governing boards to educate its students, faculty, and staff on signs of depression, anxiety, self-destructive behavior, or suicidal tendencies.

HB 206 is the product of Legislators of Tomorrow, a group that Nagurka, a self-described proud progressive, founded with Patrick MacDonnell, a Republican student across the aisle. Larry Sabato, the director of the UVA Center for Politics, calls Nagurka and MacDonnell, the "odd couple" due to their polar opposite political views. The odd couple knew they would not agree on hot button issues, but could come to a mutual understanding on less partisan issues such as mental health. Nagurka and MacDonnell quickly recruited members through different list serves at UVA. Soon enough Rachel Deitch joined Legislators of Tomorrow and brought her expertise as a third year government student to the table.

Deitch said the bill "would provide a great benefit to students at a low cost." An ardent Democrat herself, Deitch noted that "being bipartisan, we bring different considerations to the process. For example, we had to balance the desire to provide government services with the interest in being fiscally conservative." At the end of the day, the 13 members of Legislators of Tomorrow had enough in common to reach significant agreement.

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