Our View of the Legislature: Mental Health

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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.

Each year, the General Assembly considers proposals to amend the delivery of mental health services in Virginia.  Some of these proposals come from a permanent working group known colloquially as “SJ 47,” or the “Deeds Commission,” but not all proposals come from that group.   “SJ 47” was a resolution passed in 2014 that created a “Joint Committee to Study Mental Health Services in the Twenty-First Century.”  The Joint Committee is routinely re-established every two years.

SB 1273 (Deeds) – this bill creates a permanent legislative body to replace the SJ 47 committee described above. Under SB 1273, the Behavioral Health Commission would consist of five senators and seven delegates, possibly with full-time or part-time professional staff.  This is a recommendation of the SJ 47 committee. The bill will be heard by the Senate Committee on Rules.

SB 1304 (McPike) changes the requirements regarding discharge planning for individuals in state mental health facilities.  It allows someone to be discharged without a fully completed discharge plan, so long as essential services are identified.  The rest of the discharge plan must be completed within 30 days after discharge.   The Bill will be in Senate Education and Health, probably next Thursday.

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 agree to the treatment.   The bill was extensively debated in SJ 47, without clear resolution. The SJ 47 committee recommended that the bill be introduced in order to continue the debate.  The bill will be heard in the Behavioral Health Subcommittee, probably on Tuesday, January 26th, at 7 a.m.

HB 2236 (Bell) makes technical changes to Virginia code regarding Behavioral Health Court dockets.

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 Committee on Health, Welfare and Institutions.

HB 1951 (Simons) removes the common-law crime of suicide.  The bill was approved by the House Committee on Courts of Justice and moves now to the full house.  The identical bill was approved by the House last year but was defeated in the Senate.

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.