Jeff Lunardi BA ’05, MBA ’07 talks state policy on mental healthcare, insurance


Tuesday, Sept. 28, a few dozen undergraduate and graduate students attended the second installment of the Schroeder Center for Health Policy’s speaker series on mental health and substance abuse policy.

The Schroeder Center and the student attendees welcomed Jeff Lunardi BA ’05 and MBA ’07, the current executive director of the Virginia Joint Commission on Healthcare. The Commission is a state government agency that works in the legislative branch of the Virginia state government. 

“Let’s make sure as many Virginians as possible have access to quality and affordable healthcare,” Lunardi said.

“Let’s make sure as many Virginians as possible have access to quality and affordable healthcare,” Lunardi said.

To achieve this goal, Lunardi and his staff try to find solutions to the problems posed by the state delegates and senators on the Commission regarding different healthcare policy topics, which later can become legislation. He listed the three roles of the state government in behavioral healthcare: provider, payer and regulator. He also discussed the main policy areas which the Commission is tackling right now, including nursing home staffing shortages and health insurance affordability in the individual market.

Lunardi spent much of his talk and his time answering questions from students between presenting slides of information. A few questions and much of the overall talk were centered around the first policy area that the Commission is working on: nursing home staffing shortages. 

“The underlying problem is, it doesn’t pay very much, and it’s a really hard job,” Lunardi said. 

Kelsi Putnam ’23, a public health and public policy double major, decided to attend the event after her club, the Health Policy Journal Club, encouraged members to go. 

“I thought the information about the nursing homes that he was talking about was really interesting and how we don’t have enough staff who want to work for the nursing homes and how he was talking about ways to fix that, but mostly, it would just be to make the job more attractive and that it’s going to be hard to get people to work here and if you’re just kind of going through like governmental steps and monetary steps that you have to take to increase this desire to work in a nursing home,” Putnam said.

When asked about his agency’s role in the expansion of Medicaid, Lunardi jokingly answered, “Good question, how much time you got?” 

While Lunardi mentioned that he does not deal with that issue in his current role at the Commission, he said that in a former role at the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission he had a significant part in making it less expensive and more efficient. He mentioned that measures he helped implement saved the state $50 to 60 million a year.

”That’s real money. I haven’t got my commissioner’s check, but, y’know…” Lunardi said. 

Many in the audience appreciated the positive influence that this talk and the speaker series could have on campus.

“I think it has a pretty positive influence; it’s always good to know about what your government’s doing, especially in a topic that hasn’t previously been discussed as much in a political setting, and it’s kind of on the rise, talking about mental health, behavioral health,” Putnam said. “However the government’s doing, however you feel about that, I think it’s important to know what it’s doing and…be transparent in that situation.”

Following the talk, there was plenty of interest in diving deeper into the issue.

“I would love to see a talk about Virginia’s mental health facilities but from people who have worked inside of them,” Hazel Vineet ’25 said. “I think this provides an important perspective of what steps the system takes to address behavioral health issues and also why there’s such a labor shortage within the industry.”

Students also expressed interest in exploring related issues. 

“I really like this focus on mental health, I know this talk was also supposed to talk about substance abuse but I don’t think we got to that part, we just didn’t have enough time, and I think that is something that I’d really like to see, the effect of substance abuse and also incarceration on mental health,” Putnam said. “We touched upon it briefly in the talk and the previous one, but I would like maybe to dive further into that.”

The final installments in the speaker series will be on Oct. 26 and Nov. 4. For more information, visit the Schroeder Center for Health Policy’s website.


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