RICHMOND – Two bills aimed at improving mental health treatment for students are advancing in the Virginia House of Delegates.
The first, HB1609, would include public university officials in the post-discharge plan for any student who intends to return to campus after completing a period of involuntary commitment at a hospital or mental health facility. The student would have to consent for the facility to notify the university.
In explaining the need for the legislation, Del. Thomas Rust, R-Fairfax County, alluded to events, such as the April 2007 Virginia Tech massacre, committed by a student with a history of mental health problems unknown to university officials due to federal privacy laws.
“This, I think is fair to say, is an outgrowth of some of the mental health issues we’ve had at institutions of higher education,” Rust said.
The other, HB2287, would require school boards to partner with their local Community Service Board to offer mandatory mental health first aid training to teachers. The 12-hour interactive course would provide information on risk factors, symptoms and treatment of various mental health disorders, including depression, anxiety, trauma and substance abuse.
The House Education Committee recommended passing both bills, which will now go to the full House for a vote.
- Kathy Adams, The (Norfolk) Virginian-Pilot