Mental Health Reform


In response to the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings, Rob was chosen to lead a special Virginia House of Delegates subcommittee charged with reforming Virginia’s mental health commitment laws. The subcommittee’s goals were to ensure that a similar tragedy would not happen again and to protect the ability of Virginians to voluntarily seek care for themselves. In 2008, as a result of the subcommittee’s work, Virginia saw the most sweeping reforms of mental health commitment laws in 30 years.

These new laws do the following:

• Require local community service boards to attend commitment hearings (HB 499 – 2008)rob-bell-mental-health-bill-clipping

• Specify which agency from the community service board will follow the case if a commitment is authorized and report back to the court if the mentally ill person disobeys the court’s treatment orders (HB 499 – 2008)

• Revise commitment standard, replacing “imminent danger” with “substantial likelihood of serious bodily harm” (HB 559 – 2008)

• Allow records to be more easily shared among the agencies delivering services, including law enforcement (HB 576 – 2008)

• Require public universities to notify parents of students who are a danger to themselves or others (HB 1005 – 2008)

Since then, Rob has has continued to work to improve Virginia’s mental health laws. He currently serves as vice-chair of the “Deeds Commission“.

In 2014, after a tragic suicide after when a mental health bed was not found for a patient, Rob patroned HB 293, which created a “bed of last resort” at state hospitals to ensure that a bed is always available when a court has ordered treatment.

In 2016, he patroned HB 1110 to empower families to present evidence directly to the special magistrate when dissatisfied with the commitment decision made by the clinician.

In 2018, he patroned HB 1604 to improve mental health education in high school health classes.

Also in 2018, at the request of a mother of a special needs child, he patroned HB 505 to allow VDOT to post signs warning drivers that a special needs individual lives nearby.