Looking ahead to an even better, safer, more prosperous and opportunity filled future, Virginia Republican leaders in the General Assembly are championing a forward-looking agenda for governing that builds upon their past accomplishments.
Mental Health Services
· Refining the standard for involuntary commitment, making it more understandable and comprehensive, including criteria for those persons who evidence a likelihood of future danger to self or others. The impetus for this change arose out of the tragedies at Virginia Tech in April 2007. The new standard would allow the detention of individuals known to be a danger to themselves or others, but are not at the exact time of their involuntary commitment hearing. This change will end the deficient application of the current standard of “imminent danger to self and others,” ensuring the most serious cases of mental illness will be handled correctly and not fall through the system. The members of the House Health, Welfare and Institutions and Senate Education and Health Committees and the Courts of Justice Committees of both bodies will develop appropriate language that properly balances public safety with protections of individual liberty.
· Expressly requiring a representative of the local Community Service Board (CSB) to attend all commitment hearings for their clients. According to a study completed by the Virginia Supreme Court Chief Justice’s Commission on Mental Health Law Reform, CSB representatives only attended one-half of the commitment hearings held in May 2007. Enacting this change will ensure the intent of the Code of Virginia is clear and ensure this critical step in the commitment process has sufficient accountability and directly attributable responsibility.
· Expanding the successful implementation of crisis stabilizations units throughout the Commonwealth to improve access for those patients in greatest need. Increasing the number of crisis stabilization units will provide important access to individuals in emergency situations. These units were created by an initiative championed by General Assembly Republicans. Seven were instituted in 2004, with two additional units added through continued Republican leadership in the 2006-2008 state budget. Still, major populations being served by CSBs with significant case loads do not have access to these vital centers.