Under the Involuntary Treatment Act, a person may be committed by a court for involuntary treatment if he or she, due to a behavioral health disorder, poses a likelihood of serious harm or is gravely disabled and will not consent to voluntary treatment.
Designated crisis responders (DCR) are responsible for investigating and determining whether a person may be in need of involuntary treatment. A person may be detained by a DCR for up to 120 hours without a court order under emergency circumstances when the DCR receives information that a person presents an imminent likelihood of serious harm or is in imminent danger because of being gravely disabled. Additionally, a law enforcement officer may take a person meeting the emergency detention standard into custody and immediately deliver him or her to a crisis stabilization unit, evaluation and treatment facility, emergency department, triage facility, secure withdrawal management and stabilization facility, or approved substance use disorder treatment program. When a person is taken to a facility on an emergent detention, he or she may be held in the facility for up to 12 hours for a DCR investigation, provided that they must be examined by a mental health professional or chemical dependency professional within three hours of arrival, not counting time periods prior to medical clearance.
During the 12-hour period in which a person may be held in a facility for evaluation by a DCR, the facility must inquire into the person's veteran status or eligibility for veteran's benefits. If the person identifies as a veteran or is eligible for veteran's status, the facility must ask the person whether he or she would be amenable to treatment by the Veteran's Health Administration (VHA), and the information must be shared with the DCR. If amenable, the DCR must first refer the person to the VHA for behavioral health treatment at a facility that meets the person's needs. If accepted for treatment at a VHA facility, the DCR, the VHA, and the facility where the person is located will coordinate transport to the VHA facility.
The substitute bill provides that the inquiry into a person's veteran's status must occur during the period of time in which a person is being held for evaluation by a DCR, as opposed to the period of time in which medical clearance is being done by a mental health or substance use disorder professional. The requirements on the facility to report admission to the VHA system are removed, as well as the requirement to request a transfer and release of a person to an accepting VHA facility. Instead, the facility is required to ask the person whether he or she is amendable to treatment at a VHA facility, and if so, the DCR must first refer the person to a VHA facility capable of meeting the person's needs for behavioral health treatment. Finally, the substitute provides that the DCR, the VHA, and the facility where the person is located will work together to coordinate transport to a VHA facility.
(In support) Many veterans find themselves involved in the complicated involuntarily commitment system in facilities that do not understand the behavioral health options available through the federal VHA. There is a possibility to divert veterans from the involuntary treatment system if the DCR can coordinate with other facilities. This will increase coordination between the VHA and other behavioral health providers and would help connect a veteran in need to a provider that may be better equipped to address their needs.
(Opposed) This bill requires mandatory notification of private and confidential matters. The facility would be calling a person's former employer to inform them that an employee has behavioral health issues. Many veterans do not want anything to do with the VHA and have been traumatized by the system. They should not be mandated to receive services there.
(Other) Language should be clarified to ensure that a veteran retains their right to choose where to receive treatment instead of forcing them to utilize the VHA system. There are very few VHA facilities, and a person may be moved far away from their support network. Sometimes the VHA system does not communicate in a timely manner with other facilities.