February 20, 2015 – Children’s Issues

The end of the 2015 session is still a week away, but most bills of interest to the disability community have already been addressed.  There were several bills that related to children with mental health issues and other disabilities.  These include:

Mental Health Treatment of Objecting Minors

HB 1717 (LeMunyon) was approved by the full House, and has been approved by the Senate Courts of Justice committee. It will be up for a final vote most likely on Monday, February 23. The bill requires a treating facility to notify parents before discharging a minor and establishes a new standard for when an adolescent is held for treatment over the young person’s objection. If someone over the age of 14 objects to further treatment after four days, the new language requires an evaluator and a court to consider whether the young person appears to have a mental illness serious enough to warrant inpatient treatment, is reasonably likely to benefit from the treatment and has been provided with an explanation of the treatment.  The new language also asks whether all less restrictive treatment modalities have been considered

SB 773 (McWaters) requires parental notification when a hospitalized minor objects to further treatment and lowers the standard by which an objecting minor can be held for treatment, using language similar to HB 1717.  The bill has been approved by the Senate and the House.

SB 779 (McWaters) extends the period of time an objecting minor can be held from 4 days to 5 days.  The bill has been approved by the full Senate.  The mental health subcommittee of House Courts of Justice recommended approval.  The bill will be heard by the full Courts of Justice Committee today, Friday the 20th.   

Access to FAPT

HB 2083 (Peace) and SB 1041 (Hanger) require that family assessment and planning teams have a process for parents to refer children in their care directly to the FAPT teams.  Both bills were approved by both the House and the Senate.

Mental Health Education in the Schools

HB 1581 (Watts) would have required public schools to include in their family life curricula a discussion about mental health and the availability of advanced directives for mental health care.  It was defeated in the Senate.

Stun Guns in School

HB 1309 (Cole) would have allowed schools to arm their school security officers with stun guns, batons or pepper spray.  The bill was approved by the House and by a Senate subcommittee.  The patron amended the bill when presenting it to the full Senate Committee on Education and Health.  The amendments would have required training for the school security officers and would have prohibited the use of the weapons on students.  Nonetheless, the bill was defeated in the Senate committee.

Seclusion and Restraint in Public Schools

SB 782 (Favola) and HB 1443 (Richard Bell), identical bills, were approved and now await the Governor’s review.  The bills require the state Department of Education to develop regulations concerning the use of restraints in public schools. The bills require the regulations to include definitions, criteria for use, restrictions for use, training requirements, notification requirements, reporting requirements, and follow-up requirements when seclusion or restraint are used. The regulations must address distinctions in emotional and physical development and must be based on the Fifteen Principles contained in the U.S. Department of Education’s Restraint and Seclusion Resource Document. 

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The mission of the disAbility Law Center of Virginia is, through zealous and effective advocacy and legal representation, to protect and advance the legal, human and civil rights of people with disabilities, to combat and prevent abuse, neglect and discrimination, and to promote independence, choice and self-determination by persons with disabilities.