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Bill to Extend ECO Time Backed by Deeds - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Bill to Extend ECO Time Backed by Deeds

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Changes to Virginia's mental health system are moving forward in Richmond, but a bill backed by State Senator Creigh Deeds has some stakeholders concerned.

Deeds and other lawmakers want to extend the maximum duration for emergency custody orders (ECO) to 24 hours. The current limit is four hours, with a possible two-hour extension granted by a magistrate.

The Senate mental health subcommittee approved the measure with a 3-2 vote Wednesday morning, with Senators Steve Newman and Bill Carrico voting against the proposal. They join a chorus of concerned individuals from the law enforcement community, concerned that a longer ECO period would be an added burden on law enforcement, who are often left to transport those under an ECO to treatment.

Deeds shares those concerns, but says the extension is needed to prevent further tragedy from occurring.

"I can't fix what happened," Deeds said. "But what I can do, what I tried to do, what was my motivation was to make sure that situations like that were less likely to occur in the future."

Health and Human Resources Secretary Bill Hazel says it could cost the state $5 million annually just in added law enforcement costs if the ECO limit is extended to 24 hours.

Deeds' bill would also mandate the creation of an electronic registry of available mental health bed space. The Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services says such a system is already close to completion, and should roll out by the middle of March.

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