Magazine article Developments in Mental Health Law

The Governor's Response: The Task Force on Improving Mental Health Services and Crisis Response

Magazine article Developments in Mental Health Law

The Governor's Response: The Task Force on Improving Mental Health Services and Crisis Response

Article excerpt

A. Executive Order 12: Creation of the Governor's Task Force

The "Governor's Task Force on Improving Mental Health Services and Crisis Response," was established by Governor McDonnell, and renewed by Governor McAuliffe, through Executive Order 12. The Task Force, chaired by Lt. Governor Northam and co-chaired by HHR Secretary Hazel and Public Safety and Homeland Security Secretary Moran, was directed by the order not only to examine the gaps in services and procedures that directly contributed to the Deeds tragedy, but also to look at what the entire mental health services system needed to help prevent similar crises.

Areas for Task Force review:

The order directed a review of 10 specific areas in mental health services:

1. System protocols and procedures

2. Crisis services

3. Emergency custody and temporary detention periods

4. Telepsychiatry

5. Cooperation among courts, law enforcement and mental health systems

6. Veterans, service members and their families

7. Public and private psychiatric bed capacity

8. Early intervention and ongoing supports

9. Families and loved ones

10. Mental health workforce development

Task Force membership and organization:

The Task Force had 43 members (listed here), with representatives from the mental health field, law enforcement, the judicial system, and private hospitals, and also included individuals receiving services, and family members. The Task Force as a body met five times from January to August 2014, and established the following subgroups that met independently and reported findings and recommendations to the Task Force:

Workgroup on Crisis Response (roster)

Workgroup on Ongoing Treatment and Supports (roster)

Workgroup on Public Safety (roster)

Workgroup on Technical and Data Infrastructure (roster)

Subgroup on Workforce

Subgroup on Family/Loved Ones

Task Force Report:

The Task Force report to the Governor, dated October 1, 2014, included 25 recommendations across three dimensions: to expand access to services, to strengthen administration, and to improve the quality of care.

Task Force Meetings, Minutes and Materials: Important Information and Debate

The meetings in which the Task Force recommendations were developed involved a number of presentations by speakers across different professions, which provided significant information and insights into the history of mental health care and mental health reform in Virginia. The minutes of the subgroup and Task Force meetings show that the discussions among Task Force members were substantive and challenging. They reveal not only an awareness among these members of the needs of persons with serious mental illness in achieving recovery and stability and managing mental health crises, but also an awareness of the needs of the currently inadequate behavioral healthcare system in serving these individuals.

The materials and minutes of the meetings, can be found by going to this page on the DBHDS website. Unfortunately, at this time those materials and minutes can be accessed only by clicking on the "Materials" heading for each meeting of the Task Force, and scrolling through a long PDF that holds many different documents. Sometimes articles and minutes and other documents are not stored where you might expect them. This article will attempt to make these materials more accessible by identifying and summarizing specific presentations and deliberations in the narrative below, and providing links and/or directions to the Task Force materials. They are worth seeking out and reviewing. There is important information, and there are important debates on these pages.

First Task Force Meeting: January 7, 2014

The agenda for the January 7 meeting can be found on the DBHDS Task Force page, by clicking the "Meeting Materials" link on that page under January 7, 2014. …

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