March 2021

  • Big win for decriminalizing mental illness
  • Other Good News from the Legislature
  • State of Children and Youth Mental Health Conference - MHA Agusta
  • Staying Connected in a Syndemic - Peer Into Recovery Podcasts
  • Listening to Young People to Transform Mental Health
A Major Victory
in Decriminalizing Mental Illness
Virginia increases justice for those with a mental health, developmental or intellectual disability
A highlight of the recently concluded state legislative session was passage of HB2047 & SB1315 (Del. Bourne & Sen. McClellan) - Consideration of mental condition during criminal proceedings.
Current law prevents a judge or jury from hearing evidence about a defendant’s mental illness related to intent to commit a crime until after the person has been found guilty. 

This significant change in criminal procedure will modernize our criminal justice process by allowing evidence of mental illness, developmental and intellectual disabilities to be considered prior to sentencing. It will bring Virginia in line with many other states. The new legislation:
  • Allows defendants with mental illness (as well as intellectual or developmental disabilities) to introduce evidence in court pertaining to their diagnosis and how it may have impacted their mental state at the time of the alleged offense.

  • Nullifies a Virginia Supreme Court ruling from 1985 that banned the introduction of such evidence during a trial.

  • Requires judges to consider mental illness, intellectual disability, and developmental disability during the bail and trial process.

  • Requires training for court-appointed lawyers to help them understand the unique responsibility of representing defendants with such conditions.

  • Requires the defense to provide notice to the prosecution of their plans to introduce this evidence.

  • Provides that someone found not guilty under this provision could still be civilly committed under a Temporary Detention Order if they currently meet commitment criteria.
Senator Creigh Deeds (D-Bath), points out the significance of the legislation: “This bill allows a person’s whole story to be told in the guilt phase of a trial. Its passage is one of the more remarkable changes we’ve made to criminal justice. If we are serious when we decry treating those who suffer with a mental illness as criminals, this bill is necessary and logical, and will help us build a more just society.
Partner for Mental Health (Charlottesville) and Mental Health America of Virginia strongly supported this legislation. 
Victories for Mental Health
2021 Virginia Legislative Session
The Virginia General Assembly adjourned on March 1st, passing several bills and amendments to the state budget that are good news for mental health.
Below are few highlights, and you can read a longer summary on our website at MHAV 2021 GA Session Wrap-Up

2021 Budget Investments: Mental Health

-         The goal is to increase the number of behavioral health practitioners in Virginia through an educational loan repayment incentive.
-         For alternative inpatient options to state hospital care. It creates two-year pilot programs that address census pressures on state psychiatric hospitals for children and adults.
·        Directs DBHDS to collaborate with Chesapeake Regional Healthcare to dedicate a portion of its planned 20-bed psychiatric unit to provide treatment to individuals who may otherwise be admitted to state psychiatric hospitals. 
·        Restores $150,000 GF in FY2022 to provide for the transportation costs of patients discharged from state hospitals that were admitted under a Temporary Detention Order (TDO).

·        $2.1 Million GF in FY2022 to expand forensic discharge planning services from two jails to three additional jails with a high percentage of inmates with serious mental illness. Includes linking inmates with serious mental illness to community providers for treatment and housing as they transition from jails to the community. 

Selected Mental Health Legislative Outcomes
 Behavioral Health Commission Created | SB1273 (Deeds).
·        Creates a permanent Behavioral Health Commission in the legislative branch
Authorization of drugs prescribed for the treatment of a mental health disorder | HB2008 & SB1269 (Del. Heretick & Sen. McPike)
·        Eliminates prior authorization requirements for medications prescribed for the treatment of mental health disorders listed in the DSM-5.
Immigration status and mental health facilities | SB1220 (Sen. Favola)
·        Repeals the requirements that the state mental health facilities screen patients’ immigration status and report both documented and undocumented immigrants to ICE.
Crisis Call Center Fund and regulations established | SB1302 (Sen. McPike)
·        Provides that the crisis call center shall be designated as the 9-8-8 Crisis Hotline Center to align and participate in the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline initiative.
Arrest and prosecution when reporting overdoses | HB1821 (Del. Bulova).
·        Prohibits the arrest or prosecution of an individual for drug charges if they render emergency assistance, including CPR or the administration of naloxone, to an individual experiencing an overdose while another individual seeks or obtains emergency medical attention.
School-based health services | SB1307 (Sen. Dunnavant)
·        Requires the state to pay for services delivered to Medicaid-eligible students that may be provided currently by school divisions, regardless of whether the student receiving such services has an individualized Education Plan (IEP).
Health Workforce Development Authority | HB1976 (Del. Willett)
·        Expands the mission of the Virginia Health Workforce Development Authority to include
developing strategies to increase diversity in the health workforce.
Abolition of the death penalty | SB1165 & HB2263 (Sen. Surovell & Del. Mullin).
Recognize Racism as a public health crisis in Virginia | HJ537 (Del. Aird ).
The following bills did NOT pass during the 2021 legislation session:
Abolition of the common-law crime of suicide | HB1951 (Del. Simon)
·        The House passed this bill, but the Senate Courts committee killed this stigma-reducing legislation.
Restrictions and prohibition on isolated confinement | SB1301 (Sen. Morrissey).
·        The Senate passed legislation that would end most use of solitary confinement in Virginia prisons, however, it was left in the House Appropriations Committee without a hearing. 

 Listening to Young People
to Transform Mental Health
 Mental Health America (National)

Mar 23, 2021 from 2:00 – 3:00 p.m.

Learn more and register here. Free

Young people’s leadership and lived experience are critical to transforming how we promote mental health. We must build on what has helped them and invest in what they feel would empower them to make a difference for themselves and their communities.
This session will share what 1,900 young people have to say about how we can better address mental health and create pathways for hope and leadership for youth and young adults.
  • Discover where and how young people say they want to receive mental health support

  • Learn about barriers to well-being and mental health advocacy among youth and young adults

  • Learn about 5 model young person-led programs that fill gaps identified by survey respondents
 Learn more and register here.
Virtual Conference

April 26

9:00 a.m. to 12:00

Mental Health America of Augusta County

Peer Into Recovery Podcast
A podcast offering unique insights into the profession of peer support.

Featuring interviews with Peer Recovery Specialists - about their jobs, their passion, their experience, all geared toward how they are supporting hope and recovery.

MHAV Connects Peer Recovery Specialists
and the Employers Who Need Them

  • Our Virginia Peer Recovery Support Network provides a job board of volunteer and paid opportunities for peer supporters.

  • Please share with employers to post jobs or internships, and with peer supporters looking for experience hours or employment.

Alive RVA Warm Line
Opioid and Substance Use Recovery
Support and Resources
8:00 AM to Midnight
7 days/week
Annual Report Highlights – Record Year for Service
The MHAV Annual Report for 2019-2020 features pictures and highlights from “the year like no other.”

You can access the report on our website or link below. Hard copies are available upon request.
Your donation helps us offer non-judgmental peer support and prevent crisis situations. 

Your support also provides scholarships to our recovery education programs, and helps us to continue spreading awareness and advocating for better mental health policies across Virginia.

Please invest in mental health today. Thank you!
Mental Health America of Virginia | (804) 257-5591 | E-mail | Website

To educate, empower, and advocate to improve mental health for all Virginians
Please consider making a donation to support mental health and wellness in Virginia! Click here to make a tax-deductible donation.
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