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Mental health again was a hot topic in this year’s General Assembly session following an incident involving a state senator’s son.

Last year, Gus Deeds, the son of Bath County Sen. Creigh Deeds (D-Dist. 25), stabbed his father and then killed himself.

Creigh Deeds was critically injured, but recovered and returned to work several months later. He had tried to get Gus admitted for emergency psychiatric treatment the day before the incident, but Gus was discharged because an inpatient psychiatric bed could not be located before the expiration of an emergency detention order, which currently is limited to six hours.

Many of the dozens of mental health-related bills that were submitted during this legislative session focused on emergency detention and temporary custody orders, two legal tools used in the process of involuntarily admitting someone to a psychiatric hospital.

In the Senate, most of the proposed legislation was rolled into a bill originally introduced by Deeds. The bill passed the Senate unanimously Feb. 10.

Senate Bill 260:

• Extends the duration of emergency custody orders to 24 hours.

• Creates an online database of available acute psychiatric beds statewide.

• Provides that a local Community Services Board will determine where the patient should stay while under the emergency detention order.

• Requires that the local CSB contact the state Department of Behavioral Health if it cannot locate a bed within four hours of the beginning of emergency detention.

• Directs the Governor’s Mental Health Task Force to further study the issue of emergency detention with the goal of reducing the burden on law enforcement resources.

“The response to my legislative work on mental health has been overwhelming,” Deeds wrote in a message to constituents. “People from throughout Virginia and the United States have shared their stories and reached out to me for help.”

The House of Delegates subcommittee focused on mental health issues took a different approach but covered similar topics, as well as some others, in a dozen bills that passed the house by Tuesday, the final day the House could act on legislation initiating in that chamber. The legislative bodies are now considering bills that passed the other chamber.

The House extension of emergency custody orders would only allow an eight-hour emergency detention — four hours with up to two two-hour extensions allowed if permitted by a magistrate.

The House also passed more bills related to patients’ rights. Other bills related to mental health treatment include:

• HB206 — Requires four-year colleges and universities to post information on their websites about mental health care available to students at the institution.

• HB293 — Makes state facilities the default location for holding someone on a temporary detention order unless the local CSB can identify an equivalent facility. Temporary detention orders are the next step after an emergency custody order for involuntarily committing a patient to a psychiatric hospital.

• HB323 — Provides more flexibility regarding which law enforcement agency can transport someone who is subject to a temporary detention order.

• HB574 — Requires that the assigned local CSB follow up with a person ordered to receive mandatory outpatient psychiatric care within five days.

• HB584 — Requires that emergency mental health evaluations specify whether inpatient or outpatient treatment is recommended.

• HB585 — Requires that the defendant’s attorney provide the patient’s psychiatric record and other relevant reports to the hospital or other entity treating the defendant within 96 hours.

• HB743 — Requires legal records of a person who has been involuntarily or voluntarily admitted to psychiatric treatment following a temporary detention order to be submitted to the state database earlier. This could restrict the individual’s ability to purchase firearms. It also requires that documentation restoring competency be submitted to the database quickly.

• HB1172 — Establishes a set procedure for transferring a person subject to a temporary detention order from one facility to another.

• HB1222 — Requires the promotion of mental health first aid training statewide.

• HB1232 — Requires the creation of an online database of available acute psychiatric beds.

kschumitz@fairfaxtimes.com