Virginia advocates welcome bipartisan effort to add drug counselors, reduce 'barrier' laws
A bipartisan effort in Richmond aims to increase the number of drug treatment counselors in the state by allowing those who’ve been convicted of drug crimes to work in the field.
Current state law bars those with certain convictions from being employed by such programs.
They’re called barrier crimes, violations of the law that preclude someone from working in certain sensitive areas. And a pair of bills from Democratic Delegate Cia Price and Republican Senator Todd Pillion would remove some drug offenses from the list of barrier crimes when it comes to offering drug recovery counseling.
“This opens the door for opportunity. I believe once the time is paid for the crime, you should be able to go back into the workforce and have forgiveness,” Pillion told Radio IQ.
The senator said he spoke to a number of treatment facilities in his Abingdon-area district about the need for more counselors and the barrier these barrier laws put up.
Newport News-area Delegate Price said Virginia has some of the most stringent barrier crime laws in the country. She’s been pushing these changes for about 7 years, but she said committee meetings held in the past have led to the this year's bill and could bode well for its passage.
“It’s an impediment to the workforce, but it also helps folks not recidivate or not fall into their past,” Price said of her hopes from the bill.
These kinds of changes would mean the world to people like Jason Pritchard of Bristol.
He told a packed room about his own story, growing up around drug dealing before getting involved himself. Getting hooked on pain pills before selling those - and worse. And finally facing years in prison before finding faith and sobriety, and hoping to share that message with others as a peer counselor.
“We have a lot of people who need help from those that know what it’s like to walk in their shoes,” Pritchard said.
Both bills are still waiting for their first committee hearings. In an email, a spokesperson for Governor Glenn Youngkin said the governor would review all bills if they landed at his desk.