Reforms to Virginia's mental health system continue to move forward in the General Assembly, but the House of Delegates and the State Senate are now at odds over a key provision.
At issue is the length of time someone experiencing a mental health crisis can be held under an emergency custody order. The Senate bill introduced by Senator Creigh Deeds calls for a 24 hour period. The House wants a maximum of 8 hours.
It's a subject of intense interest to local law enforcement.
How long should someone be held, while mental health workers make an evaluation and try to secure the appropriate psychiatric care?
Tragic events involving Senator Creigh Deeds and his family in Bath County last November, and other crisis situations suggest that 6 hours is too short, but is 24 hours too long?
"The 24 hours is going to put a heck of a strain on law enforcement," said Bedford County Sheriff Mike Brown, "but like everything else we'll work and we'll get her done."
We spoke with Brown on Thursday morning, as his Safe Surfin' Foundation and the Virginia Attorney General's Office distributed bullet-resistant vests to a dozen law enforcement agencies.
Like the protective equipment many departments cannot afford, changes in the mental health rules will carry an extra expense.
Randy Krantz is the Commonwealth's Attorney in Bedford County.
"I think the level of consciousness has been raised through a very tragic circumstance," Krantz told WDBJ7, "and that can be positive that we can turn something bad into something good, but then we also have to have the will to actually implement it."
Attorney General Mark Herring says there is a balance he believes the state will find.
"With the discussion in the law enforcement community and the legislators," Herring said in an interview, "everybody working toward a common goal which is a more safe community and helping those who are mentally ill get the treatment they need, we'll get to the right answer. "
The different versions of Senator Deeds' bill are now headed to a conference committee. House and Senate negotiators will try to find "the right answer" before the end of the General Assembly session next week.