Last week, Virginia Gov. Terry McAulliffe signed a mental health bill into law requiring that anyone seeking help who is suffering from a mental illness be allowed care for at least eight hours, instead of the four that was previously allowed.
The legislation was proposed after an incident in November with Sen. Craig Deeds’ son. Deeds’ 24-year-old son, who was suffering from a mental illness, attacked his father and stabbed him before committing suicide. Deeds’ son, Austin “Gus” Deeds had received a psychiatric evaluation the day before, but was not admitted to the hospital because no bed was available. Sen. Deeds survived the attack.
The new law, which goes into effect July 1, is a step toward changing those situations. The state is now required to provide a bed of last resort if officials cannot find a psychiatric placements. Additionally, the state must maintain a real-time online registry listing available beds. The Commonwealth must also monitor any court-ordered outpatient treatment.
Finally, a four-year study was launched to help identify what other mental health reforms may be needed. In cases similar to Gus’, someone may be taken for mental evaluation under an emergency custody order where clinicians may determine if further evaluation along with a 48-hour stay is necessary.