Statement on Special Session 2020

The Substance Abuse and Addiction Recovery Alliance of Virginia (SAARA) is committed to working with legislators to enhance our Substance Use Disorder (SUD) and Addiction system of care; we support a multifaceted approach to the budgets discussed in the 2020 special legislative session. SAARA will advocate for legislation that promotes the following: 


  1. Strengthen access to adequate and accountable recovery supports, addiction prevention, treatment, and services;

  2. Reduce stigma and promote housing, social, educational, policy, research and health care resources, and services;

  3. Implement and support statutes geared toward SUD and Addiction Recovery and wellness across the lifespan. 


We have identified bills that we are: monitoring, supporting, actively supporting, and working to change to reflect these values better. See attached bill tracker.


  • SAARA supports the establishment and use of the Marcus Alert System. SAARA strongly supports increased access to treatment and supportive services (such as behavioral health professionals) when a person is experiencing a crisis. SAARA believes individuals should not be disproportionately negatively impacted by the criminalization and stigmatization of health conditions that require treatment and support. 


  • SAARA supports crisis intervention teams and a co-response model because people with substance use disorder and mental health conditions disorders are disproportionally criminalized and face traumatic events when dealing with law enforcement and the criminal justice system. SAARA believes that all treatment and intervention teams are most effective when there are bilingual/multilingual and culturally competent team members. We believe strongly in a system that provides appropriate level(s) of care, treatment, and recovery opportunities.


  • SAARA supports changes/improvements to the criminal justice system, law enforcement, and the laws that negatively stigmatize people with substance use disorder, mental health conditions, and/or co-occurring disorder(s), in training, implementation, and delivery of a trauma-informed system of care such that people in crisis or emergent situations receive support and assistance rather than being criminalized or institutionalized.


  • SAARA supports measures that keep individuals and families from being evicted and losing their homes due to the coronavirus pandemic's impact on the community as a whole, including disproportionately impacted areas of the Commonwealth. 


  • SAARA believes strongly in all community members' and individuals' civil rights, and we support a commission on Civil Rights and Policing that reviews any instance or issue of violation(s) of the civil rights and liberties of all community members. We also support changes to the laws and penalties for various convictions that are less punitive and discriminating; in doing this, we also support allowing the expungement of certain individual records. 





Victor McKenzie, Jr.

Executive Director, SAARA