Our View of the Legislature – Involuntary Commitment

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The 2024 session of the Virginia General Assembly ended on Saturday, March 9, 2024. Bills that were passed during the session now await review by the Governor. The Governor may sign a bill, may veto it, or may suggest changes.

The legislature acted on several proposals that address the process of depriving someone with mental illness of their constitutional rights to liberty, through Emergency Custody Orders and Temporary Detention Orders.

HB 1242 (Willett) and SB 546 (Bagby) were approved by both houses. The legislation requires a facility where an ECO evaluation is being completed to allow a family member or guardian of the person being evaluated to be present to provide support or shared decision-making unless the individual objects or if the presence of any such person would provide a medical or safety risk. The bills were offered in response to the death of Irvo Otieno, who was killed at Central State Hospital, following an emergency custody order, and who had been denied the assistance of his mother while being evaluated. The bills now go to the Governor, who is expected to sign them.

The legislature approved a one-hospital exception (in Senate District 24 – Newport News) to allow staff from that hospital, instead of the Community Services Board, to evaluate someone in crisis and determine whether they qualify for a Temporary Detention Order. Although the House bill, HB 608 from Delegate Price, died in the House Committee on Appropriations, the Senate bill, SB 34 from Senator Locke, was approved by both houses.

Identical bills, HB 823 (Cherry) and SB 497 (Carroll Foy) address the process of a magistrate being able to designate an alternative transportation provider, other than law enforcement, for a person who is the subject of an ECO or TDO. The bills state that a transportation provider shall be considered to be “available” if it can take custody within six hours. Both bills were approved by both houses.

A related bill, HB 822 (Cherry) was not approved by the House. As amended, the bill would have required the Department of Behavioral Health to convene a work group to improve alternative transportation options.

The mission of the disAbility Law Center of Virginia 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 are available to educate policymakers about the potential impact of legislative proposals. Please let us know of any legislative proposals or budget 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 1-804-225-2042.