Mental Health Reform

died-in-jail-cropRob has worked for many years to improve mental healthcare in Virginia. He currently serves as vice-chair of the bipartisan “Deeds Commission“ which is focused on reforming mental health care.

In 2014, after a tragic suicide 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, which empowers families to present evidence directly to the special magistrate when dissatisfied with a commitment decision made by the clinician.

Also in 2016, he patroned HB 616, to require officials to offer advance medical forms to anyone involuntarily committed prior to release.

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.rob-bell-mental-health-bill-clipping

In 2019, he patroned HB 1942 to establish minimum standards for mental health care in Virginia jails and to coordinate jail-provided mental health services with community services after release.

Earlier, in response to the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings, Rob was chosen to lead a special House of Delegates subcommittee charged with reforming Virginia’s mental health commitment laws. 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 laws do the following:

  • Require local community service boards to attend commitment hearings (HB 499 – 2008)
  • 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)

Bell has been recognized for his work.  He was named the Virginia Academy of Family Physicians “Legislator of the Year” and the Psychiatric Society of Virginia’s “Delegate of the Year.”