Minimum time in custody

Currently, when a person is experiencing a mental health crisis and is taken into “emergency custody,” that person may be determined to be in need of some further care in order to avoid harm.  In Virginia’s crisis mental health process, the person is evaluated by a mental health professional and a special justice may then place the individual in “temporary” custody, for a maximum of 72 hours.  During that 72 hours period, treating professionals try to determine whether the person is immediately dangerous.  If so, within those 72 hours, the treating hospital can seek an additional order from the court, this one for involuntary  commitment, if the person is not willing to get treatment voluntarily.

That’s the process, very broadly, in Virginia.  The Virginia Legislature is considering  proposals to adjust  aspects of that process.  Some, like HB 1975, seek to establish a minimum amount of time that a person can be held, in addition to a maximum amount of time.  HB 1975 says that a person held on a temporary detention order must be held for a minimum of 23 hours.

It is a complex issue that the General Assembly considers almost every year.  The thinking is that often, someone in crisis needs a short period of stabilization — some opportunity to be away from a stressful situation, perhaps, or to get some medication.  Proponents of the bill believe that, with a period of stabilization, no further hospitalization will be needed.  But, they note, sometimes a hospital may rush someone to a hearing, because of scheduling challenges.

Opponents worry about requiring a minimum amount of time for a hold, especially when a person may not be in any need of continued treatment after a few hours.

At the dLCV, we have not taken a position on these “minimum” time bills in the past, because the mental health community is divided on the topic.  We are interested in your opinion.  What do you think?

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Attendant Care Overtime, over time

Early in 2016, the United States Department of Labor issued new rules that clarify the kinds of job categories that were entitled to receive overtime pay if the employee worked more than 40 hours.  For the first time since the passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act, DOL made it clear that people employed as home health care attendants are covered by the law.  If an attendant works more than 40 hours, the attendant is entitled to overtime pay.

In anticipation of the new rules, which became effective January 1, 2016, Governor McAulliffe included funding in his proposed state budget last year, that would allow the Department of Medical Assistance Services to pay for up to 56 hours a week of overtime pay for home healthcare attendants employed under Medicaid’s Consumer Directed Waiver.  The legislature promptly removed all funding for overtime pay. And some consumers then faced crisis.

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2017 Virginia General Assembly

It is that time again in the Commonwealth!  The 2017 legislative session in Virginia will begin on January 11th at noon.  This is a “short” session meaning that the legislature plans to be in session for 45 days, rather than the 60 days of the “long” session that meets on even-numbered years.

During the “short” session, the legislature will consider amendments to the already adopted two year budget, will request studies to be completed on different topics and will debate substantive changes to the Virginia code.

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Janet Reno

When the Americans with Disabilities Act was still a very young law,  the Department of Justice filed its first lawsuit, against the Becker CPA Exam review course.  Some people who wanted to take the review course for the CPA exam, and who were also deaf, had requested that Becker provide sign language interpreters for the course, and Becker refused.  DOJ tried to negotiate with the respected review course, but Becker did not budge.  So, late in 1992, DOJ filed its first ADA lawsuit.

A year and a half later, the parties reached a settlement, with Becker agreeing at long last to provide interpreters to students who needed them, and paying monetary awards to the named complainants. The complainants were finally able to fully participate in the review course, and when they then took the CPA exam, they passed at a rate even higher than others.

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Employing people with disabilities is just good business

When you employ someone with a disability, you add a dimension of diversity that you can not acquire any other way.  That perspective can prove to be very valuable to any business.  But in addition, there may be bottom line savings and benefits for your business when you support employment for people with disabilities.  Businesses accommodating people with disabilities may qualify for some of the following tax credits and deductions. More detailed information may be found in the IRS publications referenced below. Continue reading

Employment works!

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month!  This year, we celebrate the 71st anniversary of National Disability Employment Awareness Month.  This is a wonderful opportunity to recognize the ways individuals with disabilities strengthen our workforce, our communities, and our country.

At dLCV, we are so fortunate to be able to have many coworkers who have disabilities or who have family members with disabilities.  We have daily testimony of how valuable this resource really is.

Many disabled Americans make unique contributions to the economy, but this should not be “news.”  Our history is full of examples of valuable contributions.   For example, Thomas Edison the inventor of the light bulb, was severally hearing-impaired.

Around the age of 12, Edison lost almost all his hearing, possibly because of scarlet fever.  His disability did not discourage him.  In his 84 years, Edison acquired 1,093 patents.  His laboratory in Menlo Park, N.J., was often called the invention factory.  It was there that he invented the phonograph, motivated by the machine’s ability to play material useful to blind individuals.

Americans with disabilities make up almost 20% of our population.  Sadly, people with disabilities are unemployed at a rate that is twice that of people without disabilities.   Most of those Americans with disabilities want to work and with some accommodation (many times the accommodation costing employers less than $500 per employee) can be creative and productive employees.  Many employers who pay for accommodations are eligible for tax credits and tax deductions.

As we celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month, let us continue to work to remove obstacles to employment, so every American has a chance to be employed.

Voting in Virginia

Virginia values its traditions.  This is true in many aspects of our civic life in the Commonwealth, but perhaps no more so than in the way we conduct our elections.   While many other states are willing to experiment with new fangled ideas like early voting or same day registration, Virginia resists change.  Virginia likes things just the way they are, thank you very much.

The problem for us is that “just the way they are” often works to exclude people with disabilities.

Virginia was very slow to allow people with disabilities to vote “absentee” if they were unable to get to the polling place.  The idea of increased use of absentee voting was just too much of a change.  Although the legislature eventually adopted that tiny bit of reform seven years ago, each year the legislature rejects proposals to allow changes like no-excuse absentee voting or even absentee voting for people over the age of 65.  Ideas like automatic voter registration when you get a driver’s license (“motor voter” laws) don’t even make it to committee in our legislature.

Most people with disabilities would prefer to have the option to vote on election day, in the same polling place as their neighbors.  But that option is not a real one throughout Virginia.  In March, dLCV surveyed more than 200 polling places, and found that 24% of the locations we visited had some barrier to voting for people with disabilities.  If that percentage bears out across the Commonwealth, it means that hundreds of polling locations are, in some way, inaccessible to people with disabilities.

We recently shared our survey results with the State Board of Elections, with the hope that they will take action to improve opportunities to vote for people with disabilities prior to the general election in November.  We will let you know whether they do that, or if they, too, like to keep things “just the way they are.”