Author

Kate Masters

Kate Masters

An award-winning reporter, Kate grew up in Northern Virginia before moving to the Midwest, earning her degree in journalism from the University of Missouri. She spent a year covering gun violence and public health for The Trace in Boston before joining The Frederick News-Post in Frederick County, Md. While at the News-Post, she won first place in feature writing and breaking news from the Maryland-Delaware-DC Press Association, and Best in Show for her coverage of the local opioid epidemic. Before joining the Mercury in 2020, she covered state and county politics for the Bethesda Beat in Montgomery County, Md.

Virginia’s new behavioral health director orders strategic plan for struggling state agency

By: - March 30, 2022

For the first time in nearly a decade, Virginia’s beleaguered behavioral health agency is developing a strategic plan to pull the state’s system out of an ongoing crisis in psychiatric care. Nelson Smith, appointed by Gov. Glenn Youngkin to lead the state’s Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, announced the plan at a Wednesday […]

As Congress debates COVID-19 funding, it’s Virginia’s uninsured who are most at risk

By: - March 28, 2022

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, a federal program has reimbursed more than $99 million to Virginia providers for offering testing and treatment to uninsured patients. But state health officials said they were notified this week that the program, administered by the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration, had run out of money, bringing […]

Kat Velkoff smiles for a photo after completing her kidney transplant

Virginia receives ‘C’ ranking for protections offered to living organ donors

By: - March 25, 2022

The American Kidney Fund gave Virginia a “C” ranking this year for its available protections for living organ donors, a valuable source of transplants as Virginia — like many states — struggles to match supply with demand. However, legislation that’s awaiting Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s signature could improve Virginia’s grade in the future. According to the […]

Citing FOIA exemptions, the Youngkin administration is withholding hundreds of pages of documents

By: - March 23, 2022

Since Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s inauguration in January, the Mercury has made more than half a dozen Freedom of Information Act requests related to some of his biggest policy decisions, from revised guidance on masking in schools to a report on “divisive concepts” in K-12 education. The governor’s office and multiple state agencies have withheld hundreds […]

As state mental hospitals struggle, lawmakers eye the agency overseeing them

By: - March 21, 2022

Virginia’s state-run psychiatric hospitals have been in crisis mode for years. But the last nine months have brought a series of new emergencies, from the July decision to temporarily close to new admissions to a recent lawsuit against the state for failing to admit a juvenile patient going through a mental health crisis. The turmoil […]

Amid a renewed push, vaccine uptake is still lagging among Virginia Medicaid members

By: - March 16, 2022

Virginia health officials are still struggling to boost vaccination rates among the state’s Medicaid members, a major concern as the shots, once seen as the path to ending the pandemic, are increasingly the main public health tool for managing COVID-19 as cases persist. Less than half of eligible enrollees — 41 percent in total — […]

Va. superintendents push back on Youngkin administration’s ‘divisive content’ report

By: - March 10, 2022

Local school administrators are pushing back on an interim report that rescinded equity initiatives at the Virginia Department of Education and calling on Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration to terminate a tipline for “divisive” teaching. In a Thursday letter, the Virginia Association of School Superintendents said the recent report made “gross assumptions” about public education in […]

Virginia county sues state behavioral health system for failing to admit psychiatric patient

By: - March 10, 2022

Virginia’s state-run psychiatric hospital system was hit with a lawsuit this week after failing to admit a juvenile patient who was going through a mental health crisis. Instead of receiving care, the patient — a foster child under the custody of the Giles County Department of Social Services — spent four days confined in a […]

Legislators want to expand eligibility criteria for health district directors

By: - March 9, 2022

Virginia legislators want to expand the potential pool of candidates who can take charge of local health departments — a position that’s become increasingly central amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. After a Tuesday vote, both chambers of the General Assembly have approved legislation from Sen. Monty Mason, D-Williamsburg, that would allow applicants with master’s or […]

Virginia lawmakers pass new regulations for controversial beagle breeding facility

By: - March 8, 2022

After a series of federal animal welfare violations — including more than 300 puppy deaths attributed to “unknown causes” — Virginia lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to impose new regulations on a controversial beagle breeding facility in Cumberland.  Tuesday’s vote marked a victory for animal welfare advocates, who have spent years attempting to bring the breeding center […]

General Assembly passes protections for Virginians evicted from assisted living facilities

By: - March 8, 2022

It was just a few weeks before Christmas when Elizabeth Northen learned her partner, Nina, was being evicted from the assisted living facility where she had been staying for the last six months. Together for nearly 28 years, the pair had met on the green where Nina was an instructor with the Ladies Professional Golf […]

A storm passes over the Capitol. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury - Sept. 11, 2018)

Virginia legislators expand ‘safe haven’ laws allowing parents to give up infants

By: - March 7, 2022

With a final vote last week, the Virginia General Assembly passed a slew of bills that will give parents more time to abandon their newborn children at designated drop-off spots — and launch a state hotline to increase awareness of the measure.  All four bills introduced this year will expand Virginia’s safe haven laws, which […]