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Mental Health Law Reform

Reforming Virginia’s mental health system is about much more than reforming laws: it is about developing a less coercive, consumer-friendly system that encourages and supports people to get the help they need. The laws created since 2008 provide a legal framework for reform that involves not only Virginia’s civil commitment laws but also enhanced access to needed mental health services. On July 1, 2008, changes in the criteria and procedures for emergency custody orders, temporary detention orders, involuntary commitment proceedings and other important measures took effect. The changes in 2009 make technical changes needed following the implementation of the 2008 laws, and they also help make the commitment experience less traumatic.

This page is intended to be a resource to professionals involved in implementing the new laws and to advocates and consumers of behavioral health services who would like to learn more about this process. We hope this resource will lead to more consistent practices across the Commonwealth and will make the involuntary treatment process more fair and effective. 

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May 2010—Presentations from the 2010 Mental Health Law Updates Training

The following PowerPoint presentations by the Office of the Attorney General provide training on Updates in Mental Health Law for 2010.

Mental Health Law 2010 Updates Training Presentations

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November 5, 2009—Advance Directives Training

A one day training event presented by DBHDS and the Office of the Attorney General in collaboration with the VACSB, VOCAL, NAMI and VOPA.

Advance Directive Training Presentations

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June, 2009—Overview of the Civil Commitment Law and Changes Made by the 2009 General Assembly

Five regional training events presented by DMHMRSAS and the Office of the Attorney General and co-sponsored by the VACSB, for DMHMRSAS and CSB/BHA staff, private providers, police, sheriffs, special justices, magistrates, hospital staff, consumers and family members.

Civil Commitment Law Training Presentations

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2008—Overview of the Civil Commitment Law and Changes Made by the 2008 General Assembly

2008 Training Presentations

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Effective July 1, 2009 the Office of the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court assumed responsibility for preparing and distributing the petitions, orders and such other legal forms required for custody, detention, and involuntary admission. These forms are now available from the clerks of courts.

The Department continues to be responsible for preparing the preadmission screening report, examination and voluntary admission forms.

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Resource Documents

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Court and Legal References

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Law Enforcement

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Mental Health Advocacy

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“True reform into a mental health services system that seeks to prevent before it must treat, and focuses on individuals and their path to recovery instead of on their illnesses, requires a thorough examination of the many facets of Virginia’s complicated system. These issues cannot be fixed in one legislative session, but will take focused attention by lawmakers, mental health professionals, the courts and the media for years to come.”
James S. Reinhard, M.D. (former DBHDS Commissioner)

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