January 30, 2014 Legislative Highlights

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Senate Education and Health met this morning and approved the omnibus mental health bill, SB 260, that extends the emergency custody period to 24 hours, mandates an electronic bed registry and establishes state facilities as placement of last resort.  A number of advocacy groups have expressed concern about the 24 hour ECO period.  Members of the committee expressed their intention that the period may be modified when it is sent to the money committee for review.

The House Courts of Justice subcommittee on Mental Health met Wednesday afternoon.  The subcommittee completed its consideration of some 25 bills dealing with a variety of issues in the initial stages of the process for getting a person into treatment when they are in a mental health crisis.  The subcommittee combined bills that had similar subject matter, stripped each bill down to a single issue and a proposed resolution, and assigned a patron to each topic.

Emergency Custody Orders

Currently, a person can be held under an emergency custody order for four hours, with a possible extension for an additional two hours.  The bills dealing with the length of time for an emergency custody order were combined into HB 478 and assigned to Delegate Villanueva to patron.  The bill as it comes out of subcommittee extends the time period for an additional two hours only to allow for time to locate a facility (see language in HB 583, O’Bannon).  The house subcommittee also added language to the bill to modify the forms used by the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court to include information describing the commitment process.

Bed of Last Resort

Several bills require a state hospital to be the designated facility identified in a temporary detention order if no other facility can be located.  These are referred to as “bed of last resort” bills.  They were combined into HB 293 and assigned to Delegate Bell to patron.

Psychiatric Bed Registry

Several bills require the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services to create an electronic registry of available mental health beds.  Although the Department has asserted that the registry is already under development and will be ready in March, the subcommittee added an emergency clause to the bill, requiring that it become effective on passage.  Hospitals will be required to maintain the registry in realtime.  The bills were combined into HB 1232 and assigned to Delegate Cline to patron.

Qualifications and Training

The subcommittee endorsed HB 1216 (Bell), which requires that the Department of Behavioral Health to review the training and qualifications of those performing evaluations for emergency custody orders.

Temporary Detention Orders

The subcommittee declined to advance bills that would extend the maximum time period for a temporary detention order from 48 hours to 72 hours, with a minimum of 24 hours (HB 241– Yost, HB 479  -Villanueva, HB 1125 – Ingram), even though funding for such was included in the Governor’s proposed budget.

Mandatory Outpatient Treatment

The subcommittee declined to advance a bill that would have made amendments to the various outpatient treatment statutes (HB 574 – Yost).  The proposed bill sought consistency in the various MOT options, but the subcommittee felt that the inconsistencies may have been intentional.

The subcommittee report will be heard by the full Committee on Courts of Justice, Friday afternoon.  In general, the full committee does not hear additional public comment.