Our View of the Legislature – Mental Health Discharge Rights

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Today is the last day for the House and Senate to work on bills that began in their own house. We are monitoring a bill that would address the Extraordinary Barriers List or EBL, as the bill must have final passage today. Two other bills that address the EBL have already passed.

The disAbility Law Center of Virginia has grave concerns about the number of people who are in state hospitals but no longer meet the standards for involuntary commitment. The EBL is a list of people – often up to 200 — who the hospital’s treatment teams believe no longer need hospital level of care, but who are still unable to return to the community.

Some proposals in the legislature attempt to deal with this. The problem is complex, with many different kinds of barriers preventing discharge. The bills in the legislature this year deal only with the responsibility of Community Services Boards (CSB) to develop discharge plans on time.

The Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services has offered to launch a pilot program in selected state hospitals, using hospital staff trained in discharge planning to assist with more challenging discharge plans.

  • HB 515 (Hope) states that the Commissioner of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services has the authority to discharge someone ready for discharge, with an appropriate plan, after 15 days over the objection or delays by the community services board. This bill was converted into a pilot program for just one hospital. It was approved by the House Committee on Health and Human Services and by the Committee on Appropriations. It must be finally approved by Tuesday the 13th to survive crossover.
  • SB 179 (Favola) and HB 314 (Hope) allow the state hospital, rather than the CSB, to develop a discharge plan for any individual who has been in the hospital for 30 days or less. The bills have been converted into pilot programs at three hospitals proposed by the Department. Both bills have been approved by their original houses and now switch over to the other house. There are no material differences between the two bills, so we expect them both to pass rather quickly after crossover.

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 educate policymakers about the impact of the decisions they are making on the disability community.

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@dlvc.org or by calling 1-800-552-3962 or 1-804-225-2042.