Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, Commissioner of; reports to designated protection. (SB1154)

Introduced By

Sen. Barbara Favola (D-Arlington)


Passed Committee
Passed House
Passed Senate
Signed by Governor
Became Law


Commissioner of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services; reports to designated protection and advocacy system. Requires the Commissioner of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (the Commissioner) to add written reports of the facts of alleged abuse, neglect, or exploitation of individuals receiving services in programs operated or licensed by the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (the Department) to the list of reports the Commissioner must provide to the Director of the Commonwealth's designated protection and advocacy system. Currently, the Commissioner is required to provide reports of critical injuries involving, or deaths of individuals receiving, services in facilities and reports of serious injuries to or deaths of individuals receiving services in programs operated or licensed by the Department to the Director of the Commonwealth's designated protection and advocacy system. Read the Bill »


01/21/2021: passed committee


01/07/2021Prefiled and ordered printed; offered 01/13/21 21102471D
01/07/2021Referred to Committee on Education and Health
01/14/2021Senate committee, floor amendments and substitutes offered
01/18/2021Assigned Education sub: Health
01/18/2021Impact statement from DPB (SB1154)
01/19/2021Senate subcommittee amendments and substitutes offered
01/21/2021Reported from Education and Health with substitute (14-Y 0-N) (see vote tally)
01/21/2021Committee substitute printed 21103269D-S1
01/22/2021Constitutional reading dispensed (37-Y 0-N) (see vote tally)


Linda Hosay writes:

This bill NEEDS to be passed. I have personal knowledge that many incidents of violence and injury go unreported or under-reported. Additionally, emotional trauma can often be far worse than physical trauma, and incidents of that nature are not reported (and often enough, not even recognized)..Neglect can run the gamut from lack of heat during the winter to inadequate food (both quality and amount) to unavailable medical treatment. Abuse also covers a wide range situations, from being treated rudely and with disdain to being in crisis and being forcibly put in restraints and given a shot, rather than receiving adequate intervention treatment. While I realize that much of what I have mentioned would seem to be beyond the scope of this bill, I assure you that these types of incidents are no less important. Those mentally/emotionally distressed (Some are also developmentally handicapped.) persons who have been placed in the custody and care of the state have every right to receive proper protection and genuine therapeutic treatment.


John Hosay writes:

This is a bill that affects issues that I am intimately familiar with, as I have been a patient at Central State Hospital for nearly 3 years now; both on its forensic unit and civil-side. I am currently away from the hospital 7 days a week (5 days at home and 2 days I work my contracting business from the hospital). So I am basically just there 3 nights a week. I provide my own transportation.

While overt violence is easily perceived in such places, numerous forms of abuse, neglect and exploitation often go unnoticed by most. Many patients are abused, neglected and exploited and don't even recognize it. Many who are aware are afraid to report it, as they fear, rightfully so, that it could affect how they are treated and how soon they might get out. I wonder how well the state could actually adhere to the requirements of such a bill when it currently fails to carry the requirements that are currently on the books. I was brutally attacked, unprovoked, while on the forensics unit honor's ward, and received medical treatment (making it a serious injury); however, it was not reported to the Disability Law Center of Virginia as required by law. I know this because I asked the lawyer I was working with at the time with dLCV, and was told there was no report. I know of fellow patients who were also attacked, even needing hospitalization, and their incident was not reported to dLCV (as I suggested they check with them, which they did).

And what of the more subtle forms of human harm? Is it not a form of neglect/abuse to routinely fail to tell patients the known side-effects of medications being given them (pushed on them), knowing full well that patients might likely refuse to take them (which is supposed to be their right - both to be fully informed and to refuse)? Unfortunately, many patients are quite aware that if they do complain in any way about their meds, particularly if they are NGRI (not-guilty-by-reason-of-insanity) acquitees, it could significantly affect how soon they might get out. As someone who talks with many other patients, and has experienced the hammer-response of questioning their methods, I know without question that this is the standard. Is it not a form of abuse/neglect to have rooms that are cold in the winter? The side of the wing I was on last winter had no heat whatsoever in the rooms (including the showers). There was some residual heat from the hallway, but none from the two heating systems that supply the room (water-radiator and forced air). It was very uncomfortable. The day-room and dining hall were also quite cold, though some of the heating units were working (I checked these very thoroughly). Staff wore coats, wool caps and scarves regularly to stay warm. The night staff particularly suffered. I made a formal complaint that was dismissed by the director. This same problem still exists to this day. Is it not also a form of neglect/abuse to serve food that is often barely warm, sometimes cold, and of generally poor quality?

There are many, many ways that we are harmed as patients; some obvious and some less so. It is trauma, in its various forms, that poses the greatest threat to our healing and hopeful return to the community. Unfortunately, state mental hospitals are trauma factories. A bill that requires the Commissioner to report a larger variety of harmful incidents to dLCV seems to be a step in the right direction, and certainly has my support. However, the greater issue in need of response is how to prevent the many instances of harm from happening in the first place.

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