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Mental Health Law Passes State Senate Unanimously

By Ethan Rothstein

Tuesday - 2/11/2014, 11:45am  ET

Virginia Capitol (photo courtesy Del. Bob Brink)In a bipartisan effort, the Virginia Senate passed sweeping mental health reform unanimously yesterday.

The bill, SB 260, establishes a psychiatric bed registry, extends the maximum duration of temporary custody from four to 24 hours and establishes and “clarifies procedures for placement of those subject to an involuntary temporary detention order,” according to a Senate Democrats press release.

The bill was sponsored by Sen. Creigh Deeds (D-Bath County), who police say was stabbed by his son, Austin, in the face and chest before Austin Deeds shot himself. Austin Deeds had undergone a psychiatric evaluation but was not admitted to a hospital because no bed was available.

Sen. Barbara Favola (D) was a co-patron of the bill, and announced its 38-0 passage Monday with a press release, below:

Senate Bill 260, of which Senator Favola is a co-patron, has passed the Senate today, providing a safety net for individuals suffering from mental illnesses. When an individual is evaluated under an emergency protection order and a determination is made that a temporary detention order (TDO) is needed, the bill ensures that a psychiatric bed will be available.

The bill will protect Virginia residents from the potential threats associated with mental health patients by providing sufficient time to determine the degree to which they are a threat to themselves and to others. The psychiatric bed registry will benefit these patients by guaranteeing them secure facilities in which they can be detained and will facilitate efficiency in law enforcement and crisis response services.

Furthermore, the liberty given to local community services boards to determine alternative facilities for such patients will also ensure their personalized, and therefore improved, treatment. This is filling an important hole in the mental health safety net.

Senator Favola said “Ensuring the availability of a psychiatric bed is crucial to providing much needed care.”

Under the current system, if a bed is not available a judge will not issue a TDO even if the individual needs a more comprehensive evaluation and a treatment plan.