Our View of the Legislature: Mental Health Services

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The legislature has one more week to work on bills before they must “cross over” to the other house, or will be considered defeated.  So, this week has seen some very long meeting days as the committees scramble to complete their dockets.

The General Assembly is considering several proposals to amend the delivery of mental health services in Virginia:

SB 1273 (Deeds)

SB 1273 (Deeds) – this bill creates a permanent legislative body to replace the SJ 47 Commission or “Deeds Commission.” SJ 47 was a resolution passed in 2014 that created a “Joint Committee to Study Mental Health Services in the Twenty-First Century.”  Under SB 1273, the Behavioral Health Commission replaces the SJ 47 Commission, and would consist of five senators and seven delegates, possibly with full-time or part-time professional staff.  Mental Health consumers requested that the bill specifically include citizen members with lived experience on the Commission, but the Rules Committee declined to make that change.  The bill was approved by the Senate Committee on Rules.  If adopted by the Senate, it will be included in the senate budget.

SB 1304 (McPike)

SB 1304 (McPike) changes the requirements regarding discharge planning for individuals in state mental health facilities.  As originally filed, it would have allowed someone to be discharged without a fully completed discharge plan, so long as essential services are identified.  Under the original bill, the rest of the discharge plan would be completed within 30 days after discharge.   The bill was amended in Senate Education and Health to require planning before discharge and to convene a workgroup to propose further solutions to problems of discharge planning.

HB 2166 (Hope)

Delegate Hope has introduced his annual bill to amend state law concerning Mandatory Outpatient Treatment.  HB 2166 (Hope) makes some positive changes to the law, including a requirement to recognize an individual’s wellness recovery plan or advanced directive.  However, the bill extends the length of the Mandatory order from 90 days to 180 days, and removes the requirement that the individual agrees to the treatment.   The Behavioral Health Subcommittee heard extensive debate and made tiny changes, but not on any of the issues that concern mental health consumers.  The full committee on Health, Welfare and Institutions heard additional debate, and again made some amendments, most notably including a delayed enactment clause.  HWI approved the bill and sent it to Appropriations.

HB 2236 (Bell)

HB 2236 (Bell) makes technical changes to the Virginia code regarding Behavioral Health Court dockets.  The bill was approved by committee and has been read twice in the House.

HB 1874 (Coyner)

HB 1874 (Coyner) requires correctional facilities to complete necessary mental health assessments within 72 hours of the initial intake screening. The bill was approved by the House and now goes to the Senate Committee on Rehabilitation and Social Services.

HB 1951 (Simon)

HB 1951 (Simon) removes the common-law crime of suicide.  The bill was approved by the House of Delegates and moves to Senate Judiciary, where it was defeated last year.

The disAbility Law Center of Virginia is available to educate policymakers about the implications of the decisions before them.  Please continue to check back here for updates as the session proceeds, and 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.

It is the mission of the disAbility Law Center of Virginia 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.