VA Senate Approves Mental Health Bill

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Authorities could detain a mentally ill individual for up to 24 hours in emergency custody under a bill approved by the Virginia Senate.

The upper chamber voted 38-0 Monday to approve a proposal by Sen. Creigh Deeds, a Democrat from Bath County.

Deeds was attacked last year by his son, Gus, after the younger Deeds was released from an emergency custody order hours earlier. Gus Deeds was released after a local community services board said it was unable to locate an available psychiatric bed in the area within the six hours allotted by law.

Gus Deeds committed suicide after attacking his father.

In an impassioned speech on the Senate floor, Deeds said giving authorities extra time to find psychiatric beds could help save lives.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus Press Release

RICHMOND, VA - This afternoon, the Senate voted to pass SB 260, a mental health reform bill introduced by Sen. Creigh Deeds (D – Bath County) and co-patroned by senators from both parties. Sen. Deeds has been a strong advocate for reform, and argued on the Senate floor that the Commonwealth must change its outdated system in order to do a better job of treating mental illness.

The bill won unanimous support, passing 38-0.

SB 260 would require the development of a psychiatric bed registry, establish and clarify procedures for placement of those subject to an involuntary temporary detention order, and extend the maximum duration of an emergency custody order to 24 hours — reforms that would help ensure that those who urgently need treatment for mental illness are able to receive it.

Sen. Donald McEachin (D – Henrico) said, “I’m pleased that Democrats and Republicans were able to come together in support of this bill, which begins to address a serious and ongoing problem. I’m hopeful that we’ve set a precedent, and that we’ll be able to work together to move Virginia forward in other areas, as well.”

Sen. Dick Saslaw (D – Fairfax) said, “Today, Senate Democrats and Republicans joined forces to fix a problem that affects thousands of people each day in need of mental health services. The patient and his or her family and friends are looking for a functional system that provides for minimum care in an emergency. This is a significant step towards meeting the needs of Virginians of all ages and walks of life.”

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