Virginia mental health bill becomes law


by Lucy Bustamante, 13News Now

Posted on April 8, 2014 at 12:57 PM

Updated Tuesday, Apr 8 at 6:41 PM

RICHMOND -- A bill introduced by Virginia state Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath County, to reform emergency mental health services became law Monday..

Governor Terry McAuliffe signed legislation that will extend the amount of time a person can be held in custody due to mental health concerns to 12 hours when psychiatric inpatient beds can’t be located.

Previously, the law required a person be released after six hours.

The law will also require state hospitals to accept individuals under temporary detention orders when private beds are unavailable.

Virginia state Sen. Creigh Deeds introduced the bill less than two months after his mentally ill son stabbed him and then killed himself.

Deeds said Monday that the legislation “is just the beginning” of steps the state must take to modernize its fragmented mental health system, the Roanoke Times reported. 

The head of Psychiatry for Sentara Healthcare, Dr. Matt Angelleli, tells 13News Now the new law is a "great change" that will enable Community Service Boards and patients more time to get adequate care.
"Less people thrown on the streets when they need care," says Angelleli, who was an advocate for state hospitals taking patients again.
Angelleli says Sentara has also started it's own assessment team that began this week, which will help clear the emergency departments of mental patients faster and get them into psychiatric beds.

The team of seven social workers will be working with the Norfolk and Virginia Beach Community Services Boards to assess patients wait times when CSB is short-staffed or there are too many patients.

"Our team is meant to help them. And I'd really like to see tele-psych happen, where we can assess a patient over a monitor and save the 50-minute drive. We can see more people that way," Angelleli said. 

13News Now asked Eastern State Hospital in Williamsburg if they will hire more staff to support the new law's demands.

They released the following statement in response:
In January, the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services required all community services boards to revise existing policies and develop clear protocols to access care during mental health emergencies.  The guidance included instruction for regions to collaboratively develop written policies and procedures, communication and data sharing, quality improvement and medical screening for the use of regional private and state psychiatric beds in emergency situations. In addition, these policies required the state hospitals to be the hospitals of last resort when other beds could not be found. The regions completed this action as required by March 15, 2014, and they are already being utilized, including in the region serving Eastern State.
These actions match the legislation that the General Assembly passed and the Governor just signed.