Involuntary commitment; establishes new standards for outpatient commitment. (SB246)

Introduced By

Sen. Janet Howell (D-Reston) with support from co-patrons Sen. Emmett Hanger (R-Mount Solon), and Sen. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth)


Passed Committee
Passed House
Passed Senate
Signed by Governor
Became Law


Involuntary commitment. Establishes a new standard for involuntary outpatient commitment authorizing involuntary commitment where the person has a mental illness and there exists a substantial likelihood that, as a result of mental illness, the person will, in the near future (i) cause serious physical harm to himself or others as evidenced by recent behavior causing, attempting, or threatening harm, or (ii) suffer serious harm due to substantial deterioration of his capacity to protect himself from harm or to provide for his basic human needs. This bill also requires a provider of mental health services to disclose records to a magistrate, the court, the person's attorney, the examiner, a community services board (CSB) or behavioral health authority, or law-enforcement officer; authorizes a single four-hour extension of an emergency custody order; provides that a person under a temporary detention order may be released prior to 48 hours after the order is executed if the person does not pose a danger to himself or others; specifies records and evidence that must be reviewed prior to an independent examination; requires that a representative of the CSB preparing the preadmission screening report attend each commitment hearing; establishes additional requirements for outpatient commitment; requires an outpatient treatment plan be filed with the outpatient order; and clarifies the monitoring duty of the community services board. Read the Bill »


03/12/2008: Passed the General Assembly


01/08/2008Prefiled and ordered printed; offered 01/09/08 089813248
01/08/2008Referred to Committee for Courts of Justice
01/21/2008Assigned Courts sub: Special on Proposed Mental Health Legislation
01/22/2008Impact statement from DPB (SB246)
01/24/2008Impact statement from DPB (SB246)
01/28/2008Reported from Courts of Justice with substitute (13-Y 0-N) (see vote tally)
01/28/2008Rereferred to Finance
01/29/2008Committee substitute printed 081542248-S1
02/04/2008Impact statement from DPB (SB246S1)
02/06/2008Reported from Finance with substitute (16-Y 0-N) (see vote tally)
02/07/2008Committee substitute printed 086010212-S2
02/07/2008Constitutional reading dispensed (38-Y 0-N) (see vote tally)
02/08/2008Read second time
02/08/2008Committee substitute rejected 081542248-S1
02/08/2008Reading of substitute waived
02/08/2008Committee substitute agreed to 081542248-S2
02/08/2008Engrossed by Senate - committee substitute SB246S2
02/08/2008Constitutional reading dispensed (40-Y 0-N) (see vote tally)
02/08/2008Passed Senate (40-Y 0-N) (see vote tally)
02/08/2008Communicated to House
02/13/2008Placed on Calendar
02/13/2008Read first time
02/13/2008Referred to Committee for Courts of Justice
02/14/2008Assigned Courts sub: Criminal
02/14/2008Assigned Courts sub: Mental Health
02/18/2008Impact statement from DPB (SB246S2)
02/21/2008Reported from Courts of Justice with substitute (20-Y 0-N) (see vote tally)
02/22/2008Motion to refer to committee agreed to
02/22/2008Referred to Committee on Appropriations
02/22/2008Committee substitute printed 089582248-H1
02/27/2008Reported from Appropriations (23-Y 0-N)
02/29/2008Read second time
03/03/2008Passed by for the day
03/04/2008Read third time
03/04/2008Committee substitute rejected 089582248-H1
03/04/2008Floor substitute printed 089654248-H2 (Hamilton)
03/04/2008Substitute by Delegate Hamilton agreed to 089654248-H2
03/04/2008Engrossed by House - floor substitute SB246H2
03/04/2008Passed House with substitute (99-Y 0-N)
03/04/2008VOTE: --- PASSAGE (99-Y 0-N)
03/05/2008House substitute agreed to by Senate (40-Y 0-N) (see vote tally)
03/08/2008Bill text as passed Senate and House (SB246ER)
03/08/2008Signed by Speaker
03/11/2008Impact statement from DPB (SB246ER)
03/11/2008Signed by President
03/12/2008Signed by Speaker
03/12/2008Signed by President
04/11/2008Governor's recommendation received by Senate

Duplicate Bills

The following bills are identical to this one: HB499.


Alison Hymes writes:

There are days in this state under current criteria where there are no open psychiatric beds in the entire state, where are the new people committed under expanded criteria going to go? There are already no voluntary beds left in the state hospital system, if this passes there won't be any left in the private/community hospitals.

The only inpatient treatment will be forced/involuntary treatment and all incentives to make care of good quality and empowering will go out the window in psych. units. If your patients have no choice why bother making them comfortable or even feeling safe?

R P McMurphy writes:

I strongly oppose this bill. The standard for involuntary commitment should be stringent. The standard for involuntary commitment should be based upon "present reality", and not on "supposed potential". And by the way, the current standard is not as stringent as the proponents of this bill would like one to believe.

Involuntary commitment is indeed a gross violation of one’s basic civil and human rights. As such, there must be gross justification for this gross infringement. This demands “stringent thresholds”. The nanny state mindset of "Better safe than sorry." is unconscionable and must be replaced with "beyond all reasonable doubt". Indeed, I am appalled at the nonchalant and cavalier attitude toward locking people up that is typically displayed by the employees of the state mental health system.

It is particularly reprehensible that the evaluation of this standard is based entirely upon the opinions of practitioners of an entirely subjective and ambiguous pseudoscience whose inherently high potential for misdiagnosis's is not even given lip service by these practitioners. Psychiatry has no objective verifiable or repeatable "standards". "Diagnosis's" are completely dependent upon subjective and open to interpretation clinical interviews. In a forced setting, these "clinical interviews" are obviously in a stressful and adversarial setting. This is hardly what one would call a productive doctor - patient relationship, especially for a so called profession supposedly built upon listening and trust building. Yet this potential for misdiagnosis and misunderstanding is absolutely missing from these psychiatrists's train of thoughts. People "diagnosed" with mental illness are automatically and infallibly assumed to have the said mental illness. I charge the power the state gives to these people only reinforces their overbearing Chicken Little mentalities.

This bill is further flawed in that it gives NO protections for those who will fall under these loosened standards. Where is the concern for the many more that will be misdiagnosed and forced into unwarranted treatment? Where is the concern toward the many more that will be abused by the State Mental Health System by these loosened standards?

Hard to believe this is really America. Hard to believe this state was a birthplace for liberty and individual rights. Hard to believe this is supposedly a government of reason.

Alison Hymes writes:

With a 9% release rate from involuntary commitment hearings in May of 2007, what exactly is the Senate trying to "fix" by loweing the standard for involuntary commitment. One region of the state had a 100% commitment rate. Do they want 110%??

The eradication of confidentiality of clincian/patient communication will have a chilling effect on all mental health provision in this state and will drive people out of services or keep them away in the first place. It will also cause ethical professionals to retire or leave the state to practice somewhere where they can abide by the ethics of their profession(s).

This is an unneccessary intrusion on the privacy of Virginia's citizens and rather than promoting public safety will most likely endanger the public.