February 23, 2017 – Legislative Highlight

2017 Virginia General Assembly
Legislative Highlights
February 23, 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 recent important developments in mental health law in the Virginia legislature:

HB 1996 (Hope) requires a person to be transferred from jail within 10 days of being found in need of treatment.  Approved by both bodies.

SB 1222 (Barker) would have added a patient registry to the psychiatric bed registry.  Approved by the Senate, but after discussion with advocacy groups, Senator Barker asked to strike the bill.

HB 1426 (Garrett) requires the Department of Behavioral Health to develop a model for alternative transportation of a person under an emergency custody order (other than transportation by police).  The model must be available by October 1, 2017.  Approved by both bodies and signed by the Governor.

And, as previously reported:


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 House version has been approved by both bodies and must be acted on by the Governor by March 27, 2017.  The Senate version differs slightly, and has been sent to a conference committee to resolve.

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.   The Governor has until March 27, 2017 to act on the bill.



HB 1784 (Bell, Rob) requires a comprehensive plan establishing discharge planning duties for jails Approved by both bodies.  The Governor must act on the bill by February 24, 2017

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.   The Governor must act on the bill by March 27, 2017.

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 both bodies.  The Governor must act on the bill by March 27, 2017.   The Senate companion bill, SB 935 (Lucas), was approved by both bodies but not yet sent to the Governor.

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), and left in Appropriations (died).

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.  Appropriations then removed the training of jail personnel to use the tool, limited the bill to the development of a uniform health assessment tool and then tabled the bill, saying that it might be dealt with in the budget.