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Letters to the Editor for July 27, 2022: Simple linguistic changes

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Simple linguistic changes

Editor, Times-Dispatch:

In 2014, Virginia legislators created a "bed of last resort" policy. It provided mental health and court officials with more options to find psychiatric placements for patients under custody orders, and it changed the time frame of a temporary detention order (TDO) from 48 hours to 72 hours.

The policy mandates that if a community hospital bed cannot be found and/or is unwilling to accept an individual before a TDO expires, state facilities must provide a bed of last resort for both adults and juveniles.

The legislation also compelled state Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services administrators and community hospitals to maintain a real-time, online registry of available beds. Now called the Virginia Acute Psychiatric and CSB Bed Registry (PBR), its task was to effectively communicate bed availability across the state to reduce the practice of “streeting" — releasing a person from a TDO if no willing provider can be located.

DBHDS has been under scrutiny for being asked to take on the impossible. Without community hospitals doing their part and updating the online PBR, there still is a lack of efficient communication between private facilities and state hospitals across the commonwealth.

In fact, some facilities have not updated their PBR census in more than three years. There have been recent improvements at the state and local levels, enhancing care and quality of life for many Virginians living with severe mental illnesses.

Yet a few simple linguistic changes to the current policy could have a massive, positive impact on the system. Lawmakers should update the legislative language around defining willing providers to ease the state hospital bed count and make a specific notation that private providers cannot deny patients.

Rebecca Davidsson.




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