Our View of the Legislature: Mental Health

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The 2022 session officially ended on Saturday, March 12, although the legislators left much undone. They did not reach agreement on a budget; they will need to return for a special session to resolve that. Since many of the remaining bills carried a potential financial impact, they had to be carried over for that special session as well.

We are pleased to report that there do not seem to be any remaining bills that would have an adverse impact on people with serious mental illness. However, we had been hopeful that the legislature would add consumer voices to the Behavioral Health Commission, but Senator Deeds killed that effort.

Here is the status of some of the mental-health related bills we monitored this year:

Behavioral Health Commission: One very important legislative proposal that we supported was HB 1232 (Robinson), which would have added to the membership of the Behavioral Health Commission two citizen members who have received mental health services in Virginia. This would have helped to ensure that any legislative changes being considered take into account the impact on the people most directly affected. Although the bill was unanimously approved by the House, Senator Creigh Deeds killed the bill in Senate Rules, arguing that having consumer members on the Commission would mean that the work is taken less seriously.

Emergency Custody Orders and Transfer of Custody: A number of bills address the desire of law enforcement to transfer custody of minors and adults after the execution of an emergency custody order (which is the very first “involuntary” stage in responding to someone who is in a crisis). Please see our legislative update from March 8, 2022 for the resolution of those bills.

HB 105 (Rasoul) proposed a study to consider converting Catawba Hospital to a substance use disorder treatment facility. The bill was approved by the House but was carried over to 2023 by the Senate Committee on Rules.

HB 663 (Hope) reorganizes and clarifies provisions of state code relating to mandatory outpatient treatment. The bill did not make any substantive changes to existing code.  It was approved by both the House and the Senate.

HB 1191 (Ransome) and SB 361 (Stuart) allow smaller jurisdictions to opt out of the Marcus Alert for those in mental health crisis. The bill was recommended by a conference committee and approved by the House and the Senate.

SB 49 (Favola) expands the critically missing adult alert system to include any adult, including those with mental illness or developmental disabilities, regardless of whether there is any suspicion of abduction. The bill was recommended by a conference committee and approved by the House and the Senate.

Our 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 are available to educate policy makers about the potential impact of legislative proposals and budgetary considerations. Please let us know of any legislative proposals or budget issues that you think we should be following. Contact us at info@dlcv.org or by calling 1-800-552-3962 or 804-225-2042