Division of Legislative Services > Legislative Record > 2007

House HWI Committee

September 6, 2007

On September 6, 2007, the House of Delegates' Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee met for the third time to study the Commonwealth's mental health laws and system of mental health care. Four guest speakers from the Chief Justice's Commission on Mental Health Law Reform were invited to report on the commission’s activities.


Professor Richard J. Bonnie, Esq., Director, University of Virginia Institute of Law, Psychiatry and Public Policy and chair of the Chief Justice's Commission on Mental Health Law Reform, described the background of the Chief Justice's Commission, including the reasons for its creation, its structure, goals, guiding principles, and work plan. Professor Bonnie highlighted some general findings from the commission's studies of commitment hearings conducted in May of 2007 and crisis contacts with Community Services Boards conducted in June of 2007. He identified three strategic prongs of reform upon which the commission had reached consensus, including timely access for services, increased empowerment and self-determination for people with mental health problems, and fair and effective involuntary interventions. Professor Bonnie also discussed the activities of the Task Force on Commitment, highlighting activities in the areas of emergency custody and transportation; revisions to criteria for involuntary treatment; redesign of the commitment process; mandatory outpatient treatment; and training, compensation and oversight of persons participating in the commitment process.

Charles Hall, M.Ed., CAS, Executive Director, Hampton-Newport News Community Services Board and chair of the commission’s Task Force on Access to Services, presented information on the group's activities and identified several recommendations and suggestions for improving the current mental health system in the Commonwealth. Mr. Hall began by highlighting the need for statutory reform, increased service capacity, and greater resources. He identified capacity components including early intervention and treatment services; crisis response services including crisis intervention, crisis stabilization, and crisis intervention teams; and intensive support services including case management and assertive community treatments necessary to improve access to community-based services. Mr. Hall provided a detailed two-year action plan for implementing recommended changes to increase access to care.

Allyson K. Tysinger, Assistant Attorney General and member of commission’s Task Force on Access to Services, described the Montgomery County (Pennsylvania) Emergency Services (MCES) model of crisis support services and identified several "best practices" that could be adapted from MCES for use in the Commonwealth.

Charlotte V. McNulty, Executive Director, Harrisonburg-Rockingham Community Services Board and vice-chair of the Task Force on Children and Adolescents, identified the core values of the group and stressed the need for greater access to services for children and adolescents. She spoke regarding a number of capacity components necessary to improve access to community-based services, which were similar to those identified for adults. She concluded by discussing several options to improve the mental health system for children and adolescents.

Next Meeting

The next meeting of the HWI Committee will be on October 9, 2007, in Richmond and will feature public comment.

The Hon. Phillip A. Hamilton

For information, contact:
Sarah Stanton, Greg O'Halloran, DLS Staff


Division of Legislative Services > Legislative Record > 2007

Privacy Statement | Legislative Services | General Assembly