Virginia Gov. Timothy Kaine is expected to propose spending more than $40 million to begin overhauling the state’s mental health system, which has come under scrutiny since 32 people were killed at Virginia Tech by a gunman with a history of psychiatric problems, the Washington Post reports. Kaine’s proposal will closely parallel the recommendations of the independent panel that investigated the April 16 shootings by Seung Hui Cho and will focus primarily on getting people help in crisis situations.
The new money would increase the number of “crisis stabilization units” designed to offer brief psychiatric intervention instead of immediate hospitalization. Kaine also is expected to recommend more money to allow local community services boards to provide better monitoring of the mentally ill, including those who have been ordered into outpatient treatment, as Cho was 16 months before the Virginia Tech shootings. It is unclear how far Kaine and the legislature will go in changing longstanding policy, such as the state’s imminent-danger standard. Judges and magistrates cannot order people into a treatment facility unless they are “an imminent danger to [themselves] or others as a result of mental illness” or so seriously mentally ill as to be substantially unable to care for [themselves].” Virginia is one of only five states that have such a high bar for commitment. Eighteen states have revised their standards since 1999, says the Treatment Advocacy Center in northern Virginia.