General Assembly Report by Rob Bell
On Wednesday, part-time legislators from across Virginia gathered for the new session of the General Assembly. After moving in to our motels and apartments, we all came back to Thomas Jefferson’s historic State Capitol to be sworn in and to hear Gov. Tim Kaine’s State of the Commonwealth address.
Addressing Mental Health Commitment Laws
As a result of ongoing studies and the tragedy at Virginia Tech, the General Assembly has undertaken a review of Virginia’s mental-health laws, especially those that deal with involuntary commitment. The bills include:
– A different legal standard for involuntary commitment so that mental-health professionals can intervene earlier when someone presents a danger to himself or others. However, the standard would limit intervention where there is a danger of “serious bodily harm.”
– Better oversight for those who are receiving outpatient care, so that no one falls between the cracks and fails to receive the care he needs.
– Additional authority for doctors and family members to present information to magistrates regarding their patients and loved ones
I was appointed the chairman of the House’s Mental Health Commitment Subcommittee, which will review the many bills that have been submitted. At our first hearing on Friday, we heard from emergency-room doctors, community-service boards and several mental-health consumers. We hope to reach consensus on the bills in the next few weeks.
Historic Virginia State Capitol is Open for Visitors
After being closed for renovations for the last two years, the Virginia State Capitol is again open for visitors. (For the last two years, we have held sessions in the Library of Virginia.) If you are in Richmond in January, February or March please stop by my office, I would love to see people from home.
I can be reached at the General Assembly Building, Post Office Box 406, Richmond, Va. 23218 – 804-698-1058. [email protected].
Rob Bell represents the 58th House District in the Virginia General Assembly.