The Virginia Commission on Youth met on September 19 to discuss two studies conducted by staff at the Commission’s direction. The Commission is seeking public comment on the draft recommendations for both studies. Public comments are due by 5:00 p.m. on Monday, November 13, 2023, and should be sent via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Admission of minors to a mental health facility for inpatient treatment: This study was generated by legislation proposed during the 2023 session that was referred to the Commission by letter from the House Courts of Justice Committee. The bill would have increased from 14 to 16 the minimum age for a minor to consent to admission to a mental health facility for inpatient treatment and added addiction as a reason for a minor to be admitted to a mental health facility for inpatient treatment. The bill’s patron, Delegate Anne Ferrell Tata, who also serves on the Commission on Youth, explained that she sought to address situations in which a minor who is 14 or 15 years of age refuses to consent to inpatient treatment that the parent feels is necessary, and to address issues of substance use disorder among youth.
Under current Virginia law, a minor younger than 14 may be admitted to a willing mental health facility for inpatient treatment with the consent of a parent; a minor 14 years of age or older may be admitted with the consent of the minor and the minor’s parent. A minor 14 years or age or older who objects to admission or is incapable of making an informed decision may be admitted for up to 120 hours, pending an evaluation and court review. Issues reviewed during the study included the prevalence of mental health issues and substance use among youth in Virginia and the gaps in substance use disorder treatment services for youth; other provisions in Virginia law regarding minors’ ability to consent to certain medical or emergency services; other states’ laws on treatment consent; and accessibility of information regarding the admission process for minors. Proposed recommendations include:
- Raising the age at which a minor may object to treatment from 14 to 16.
- Clarifying Code language regarding minors’ consent to inpatient substance use disorder treatment to specify the age of consent as well as clarifying language regarding the admission of a minor to a facility under the application of a parent to state that in this case a temporary detention order is not required.
- Requesting the convening of a workgroup to consider options for the transportation of minors who are admitted through the court process outlined above.
- Requesting or requiring the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS) to provide information on its website regarding the psychiatric treatment of minors; requesting the Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS) to provide information to local departments regarding the process of admission of minors to inpatient treatment; and requesting DBHDS to provide educational materials to professional associations of psychiatrists and psychologists, as well as to Community Services Boards (CSBs), on the voluntary and involuntary admissions process for minors.
- Requesting DBHDS to work with CSBs to target available federal funds towards higher-intensity substance use services for minors.
Improving Virginia’s foster care system: This study seeks to update an earlier effort by the Commission and examines a series of topics, including workforce retention, liability insurance for foster care agencies, and foster family recruitment and retention. Among the study’s recommendations are the following proposals:
- Supporting the establishment of a centralized training academy model for child welfare in order to improve staff retention by ensuring staff are well-prepared.
- Enhancing the Child Welfare Stipend Program, which uses federal Title IV-E funds to support social work students who in turn commit to work at a local department of social services.
- Addressing the issue of liability insurance through several proposals: providing qualified immunity for acts of negligence to private foster care agencies that contract with localities; applying a monetary cap for negligence cases resulting from the placement of a child by a private foster care agency; requesting the formation of a workgroup by the State Corporation Commission to study the expansion of group self-insurance pools to permit private foster care agencies the ability to join a pool, with permission of a locality, to obtain liability insurance for foster care services; and requesting VDSS to form a workgroup to study these policy options.
- Continuing the Exceptional Circumstances Payment pilot program, which provides up to an additional $3000 per month for foster families, for up to three months, to support emergency situations or additional supervision for a foster child, in order to support a safe and stable placement.
- Requesting DBHDS and VDSS to assess the barriers to availability of substance use disorder treatment services and make recommendations for establishing systems to address parental substance use and prevent the entry of children into foster care.
- Directing the Commission on Youth to review concerns regarding reports of increased use by parents of relief of custody to place challenging children or youth in foster care.
VACo Contact: Katie Boyle