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Mental Health Bills Move Forward In Virginia

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Virginia Capital Building
WAMU / Matt Lazlo
Virginia Capital Building

Virginia is moving closer to implementing changes to its mental health system under legislation that has advanced in the General Assembly. The state Senate approved two bills to help clarify how long a person can be held for treatment under a temporary detention order.

Critics of current law argue that it doesn’t authorize enough time to diagnose and begin treating temporarily detained patients in crisis. Sen. George Barker’s (D-Fairfax County) bill would lengthen the time for staying in custody.

What this measure would do is make it a minimum of 24 hours and a maximum of 72 hours, so that the maximum would be three days instead of the current two days.

Courts are already required to send the names of those who are involuntarily committed or ordered to outpatient treatment to the Criminal Records Exchange for gun background checks. But Senator Donald McEachin (D-Henrico) says the process was confusing.

What the State Police found was that they couldn’t find the orders. Was the order filed where the hearing took place or was the order filed where the person lived? What this bill makes clear is that the order should be filed where the hearing takes place and no late r than the close of business the following day.

And a Senate panel has approved Sen. Creigh Deeds’ (D-Bath County) bill to quadruple the time for emergency detentions in order to find psychiatric beds, to create a statewide bed registry, and to use state hospitals as a last resort. That bill was sent to the Finance Committee.

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