Our View of the Legislature: Behavioral Health

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With the last day of this year’s legislative session with the General Assembly on Saturday, here is where some of the bills impacting behavioral health are:


Bills that impact the ECO/TDO (Emergency Custody/Temporary Detention) period:

Bills to allow a person to be detained in an ER for 24 hours if, due to intoxication, they are unable to make an informed decision and the medical standard of care calls for observation, testing, or treatment. This has passed both the House and Senate unanimously.

HB 1976 (Bell) and SB 1299 (Deeds) both allow the director of a facility of temporary detention to release an individual who no longer meets commitment criteria. These two bills each passed, but slightly contradict each other and are being reconciled by the Conference Committee.

SB 872 (Newman) addresses alternative transportation for people who are subject to an ECO and when restraints can (and cannot) be used. This passed both bodies on unanimous votes.


MOT (mandatory outpatient treatment) as part of a criminal charge:

There were two different approaches introduced this year to allow a type of MOT to be ordered as part of the court addressing criminal charges: (1) to allow a judge in a criminal case to divert a defendant (if they agree) from the criminal charges and into MOT, and (2) allowing a judge to order an evaluation for a type of MOT after someone is found not guilty if they had introduced mental health into evidence in their defense. Though all of these bills died in their various committees, we expect to see the idea of a defendant being able to opt into a diversion from the criminal charges to surface again next year.


What happens if an individual commits assault while in a mental health crisis?

There were a few bills addressing assaults and/or threats made to healthcare providers, which passed both bodies. Thereby, expanding the situation where a person making an oral threat to a healthcare provider who is rendering emergency care during an ECO or TDO or involuntary hospitalization order will be not subject to a Class 1 misdemeanor. These passed both bodies, each with some descension.


Barrier Crimes

Bills that would allow Certified Peer Recovery Specialists with certain specific barrier crimes related to their substance use to be considered for employment in a substance abuse treatment program passed unanimously out of both bodies.


Additional areas of interest:

A bill allowing a defendant of a misdemeanor charge to be evaluated for a Temporary Detention Order as part of their competency evaluation passed unanimously out of both bodies.

The bills to remove questions about past mental health conditions from licensure, certification, and registration applications and replace them with questions asking if the person believes they would be a risk, and if they are able to perform the essential functions related to their license, certification, or registration have unanimously passed both bodies. This change passed with an emergency clause which means it will become effective immediately upon the governor’s signature.

A bill to create an Advisory Committee for the Behavioral Health Commission made up of individuals who are currently or have in the past received behavioral health services, passed unanimously in both bodies with several changes. The new language that passed took out the specific Advisory Committee and changed it so the Commission is required to implement a process to solicit and receive input from behavioral health peers, people with intellectual or developmental disorders, people with autism spectrum disorders, or family members.

A bill requiring that investigations into death occurs for individuals that were receiving services in a state hospital or training center passed both bodies unanimously.

The disAbility Law Center of Virginia’s mission is to advance independence, choice, and self-determination; protect legal, human, and civil rights; and eliminate abuse, neglect, and discrimination of people with disabilities through zealous and uncompromising legal advocacy and representation. We educate policymakers about the potential impact of legislative proposals on the disability community, particularly those in the community with mental health needs. Please let us know of any issues that you think we should be following. Contact us at ga@dlcv.org or info@dlcv.org or by calling 1-800-552-3962 or 804-225-2042.