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New River Valley Delegate takes charge in reforming Virginia's Mental Health System

Published On: Dec 30 2013 05:00:10 PM EST   Updated On: Dec 30 2013 07:38:03 PM EST

Joseph Yost has proposed what he calls "commonsense reforms"


Changes to the mental health system have been at the forefront of discussion heading into the 2014 General Assembly.

Today, a local delegate prefiled three bills he calls a good start to fixing the system.

Delegate Yost says Virginia's mental health system isn't going to be fixed overnight or with one law.

In it's most basic form, these three bills are asking for one thing; more time.

The stabbing of Senator Creigh Deeds and subsequent suicide of his son Gus could profoundly shape the 2014 General Assembly.

Gus Deeds was turned away from mental health services because a Community Services Board wasn't able to find him a bed in the allotted time.

Generally, these bills hope to change that.

"They are common sense and they're meant to alleviate some pressure on mental health workers as they're trying to provide access to services for individuals," Yost says.

One of the bills will add a two hour extension to emergency custody orders for initial evaluations; currently the maximum is six hours.

Another bill would require temporary detention orders to be at least 24 hours; currently, there is no minimum and the maximum would go from 48 to 72 hours.

The final bill would allow magistrates to order a temporary detention order if an emergency custody order has expired and there's a plan in place to get help; currently, magistrates can't do that.

"They're all based on recommendations that came from Secretary Hazel and Governor McDonnell following the incident with Senator Deeds and his son on November 19," Yost added.

Governor-Elect McAuliffe has promised to make mental health a priority of his time in office.

Governor Bob McDonnell also left more money in his outgoing budget specifically for commonsense mental health reforms like the ones Yost is proposing.

Delegate Yost is optimistic that more money for mental health means these laws have a good chance to pass.

With mental health reforms receiving bipartisan support before the General Assembly begins, his optimism could be well-founded.