By MELINDA WILLIAMS
Delegate Joseph Yost (R-12th District), who was named 2013 Legislator of the Year by the Psychiatric Society of Virginia, has introduced three pieces of legislation in the 2014 Virginia General Assembly aimed at reforming the Commonwealth’s mental health system.
“The incident with (25th District Sen. Creigh Deeds) and his son was a tragedy. It is my hope that these suggested proposals will help prevent further tragedies from happening,” Yost said of the legislation.
The delegate was referring to a November incident in which police said Deeds’ 24-year-old son stabbed the senator multiple times outside their Millboro home and then fatally shot himself. Deeds survived.
According to reports, Deeds’ son had been released from a mental health emergency detention a day before the Nov. 19 attack when officials were told there were no psychiatric beds available.
Yost said his proposed legislation is not a “silver bullet” cure. However, he added, Gov. Bob McDonnell and Secretary of Human Services Bill Hazel have proposed budget investments and reforms “that will be a huge first step in increasing access to services and I look forward to again championing these issues in the 2014 session.”
Yost’s proposed HB 241 allows a person held pursuant to a temporary detention order (TDO) to be held for at least 24 hours but no more than 72 hours. The current limit is 48 hours.
HB 242 provides for a second two-hour extension of the time during which a person can be held pursuant to an emergency custody order (ECO).
Under HB 243, if a facility for temporary detention has not been identified prior to expiration of an ECO, magistrates will be able to issue a TDO if the person meets criteria for temporary detention. The detention, however, would also be contingent upon the community services board certifying it will continue to make good faith efforts to identify the facility of temporary detention until a facility is identified or the TDO expires.
All three bills would have to receive approval of the House of Delegates and Senate and be signed by Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe to be implemented.
In 2013, Yost carried a bill similar to HB 241 that was ultimately left in committee due to fiscal concerns. However, McDonnell appropriated $1.3 million in his outgoing budget to help ensure the bills passage in 2014.
Roanoke Valley-NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) and the Virginia Counselors Association also have named Yost ”Legislator of the Year” in 2013.