January 27, 2014 Legislative Highlights

Temporary Detention Orders

Many of the mental health bills under consideration in this session deal with the very first stage of intervention when a person is in a mental health crisis:  the emergency custody order.  The next phase of intervention, a temporary detention order, has had little public attention in the wake of recent events.  However, Senate Courts of Justice heard a bill this morning concerning TDOs.

Under current law, once a person has been determined to be in need of temporary hospitalization and a facility has been identified, the magistrate or special justice issues a “temporary detention order.”  Under current law, the TDO expires in 48 hours, during which time the court may decide that a person requires longer term involuntary commitment.

SB 115 (Barker) extends the TDO period to 72 hours and establishes a minimum of 24 hours for a person to be held.  (SB 115 also incorporates Senator Hanger’s SB 424.)  This change was recommended many years ago by the Supreme Court’s Mental Health Task Force.  Those favoring the change believe that the additional time will assist a person to become stabilized and make it more likely that they will not need involuntary commitment.  Some advocates fear the additional hours and especially the mandatory minimum 24 hours may unnecessarily deprive individuals of their liberty.  In recent years, the bill was defeated because of the additional cost associated with it.

SB 115 was approved by the Senate Courts of Justice committee this morning, with some technical amendments, and now advances to the full Senate.  There is sufficient funding in the proposed budget to cover expected costs associated with the bill.   There is a duplicate bill on the House side (HB 479 – Villanueva) that make similar changes to the TDO process, but that bill is still under consideration in subcommittee.

Training Center Bills

There are three  pieces of proposed legislation that were intended to influence the Commonwealth’s decision to close four out of five of the “training center” institutions by 2020.  One of the proposals has been defeated for this year, two are still under consideration in the Senate.

The intended training center closures are a part of an overall plan to improve community services for people with disabilities and to invest greater and greater resources into the community rather than in institutional settings.  The plan was developed in response to an investigation, lawsuit and settlement agreement between the Commonwealth and the U.S. Department of Justice.  For more information, go to our web page on the case. 

HB 593 (O’Quinn) would have prevented the closure of all training centers.  A subcommittee of the Health Welfare and Institutions committee voted to “table” that measure.   Under the procedures of the House, the bill is effectively dead.

SB 136 and SB 627 (Newman)  require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to certify that the services available in a community placement for each individual is equal to or better than those in a training center before an individual can be transferred.   Both bills were held over until this week’s meeting of the Senate Committee on Rehabilitation and Social Services.

Senator Newman serves the senate district that includes Central Virginia Training Center, where the US DOJ found unconstitutional conditions of confinement in 2011.  Delegate O’Quinn’s district is near the Southwestern Virginia Training Center.

If you know of proposed legislation, a budget proposal or other issue that you think we should know about, please let us know.  Contact us at info@dlcv.org or at 1-800-552-3962 .  The disAbility Law Center of Virginia is a private nonprofit organization, dedicated to advancing the rights of people with disabilities in Virginia.  The dLCV may educate policymakers about the impact of proposed legislation.