Virginia will have new rules for managing people in a psychiatric crisis under final legislation approved on the last day of the General Assembly session.
The bills extend the length of time that a person in a dangerous state of mind can be held in an emergency and ensure that a secure psychiatric bed will be found. this is only the first step for an initiative that will also evaluate how well the new system works.
The reforms seek to correct shortcomings in mental health laws that came to light after Senator Creigh Deeds was attacked by his son, who later took his own life. His son had been released from emergency custody after a psychiatric bed was not found by the six-hour deadline.
Delegate Ben Cline said the legislation creates a real-time database of available beds, requires use of a state facility if needed, and extends the time for emergency custody. “It eliminated the two-hour extension and just made it a flat eight-hour period, allowing for an additional four hours when transferring from one state facility to another.”
The new rules extend temporary custody from 48 to 72 hours. Deeds said the reforms will end the practice of “streeting” people when beds are not found. “We’ve done the best we could in this legislation to make sure that no single person slips through the cracks. I think no question it will save lives. I mean, every one of these situations is life and death.”
Under the bills, a state panel will evaluate the services and make recommendations. The state budget also contains millions in additional funding.