Details released of Virginia’s new mental health laws

WASHINGTON — New laws will give Virginia more time to find help for someone suffering from mental illness.

Starting Tuesday, a new set of emergency custody and temporary detention statutes go into effect, says Jim Martinez, director of the Office of Mental Health at the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services.

The first change deals with emergency custody orders, or when someone convinces a court to take in a loved one for mental evaluation because they think they might hurt themselves or others.

It comes from a bill that came about after tragedy struck the family of Virginia state Sen. Creigh Deeds. Deed’s 24-year-old son attacked the senator and killed himself hours after he was released from a hospital.

The change will take the maximum amount of time for emergency custody order to eight from six hours.

If a temporary detention facility can’t be found in eight hours, “The DBHDS operated state hospital will be the temporary detention facility, used for those cases,” Martinez says. The state hospital will have an additional four hours to find a mental illness facility near to the patient’s home.

The length of temporary detention orders have now increased to 72 hours from 48.

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