February 16, 2017 – Legislative Highlights

2017 Virginia General Assembly
Legislative Highlights
February 16, 2017

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.

Here are some important developments in mental health law in the Virginia legislature:

ADVANCED DIRECTIVES

There are two sets of bills that will impact the use of advance directives for mental health treatment.

HB 1747 (O’Bannon) and SB 1242 (Dunnavant) seek to expand the types of people who can assist someone to create an advance directive.  An interpretation of current law suggested that assistance is limited to lawyers and health care providers.  The proposed changes would allow persons who have been trained in an approved program to be able to assist in the preparation of an advance directive. The bills have been approved by both bodies of the General Assembly.

HB 1548 (Farrell) and SB 1511 (Deeds) provide that a person may, in their advance directive, authorize an agent to make a decision about admission to a hospital and may state that only one professional opinion is needed for that decision to take effect.  The bills also expand the list of treating professionals who can make the determination that the advanced directive should be in effect.  The bills have been approved by both bodies of the General Assembly.

JAIL REFORM

HB 1784 (Bell, Rob) requires a comprehensive plan establishing discharge planning duties for jails Approved by both bodies.

HB 1996 (Hope) requires a person to be transferred from jail within 10 days of being found in need of treatment.  Approved by the House and by the Senate Committee on Courts of Justice.

HB 2184 (Yost) creates a process for jails to communicate about the need to screen inmates who need to be transferred for mental health treatment.   Approved by both bodies.

HB 2462 (Bell, Rob) allows an inmate to be transferred for inpatient mental health treatment even if already receiving treatment on an outpatient basis, in jail.  Approved by the House.   The Senate companion bill, SB 935 (Lucas) was conformed to HB 2462 and approved by the House Courts subcommittee on Mental Health.

SB 940 (Cosgrove) — requires mental health screening in jails. Approved by the Senate, and by the House Courts of Justice committee.   At the public safety subcommittee of Appropriations, this bill was rolled into SB 1442 (below).

SB 1442 (Deeds) – requires mental health screening in jails, using a uniform health assessment tool.  Approved by the Senate and by the House Courts of Justice Committee.  At the public safety subcommittee of Appropriations, the committee decided to remove the training of jail personnel to use the tool, and limit the bill to the development of a uniform health assessment tool.  The subcommittee then tabled the bill, but said they may bring it back in some form.