RICHMOND, Va. -

Mental health reforms are moving forward in Richmond.

Friday, Bath County Senator Creigh Deeds defended a change he hopes will improve the state's response in crisis situations.

 Deeds has introduced four different bills that draw upon his own experiences with Virginia's mental health system. The one the Senate took up Friday deals with the amount of time someone can be held on an emergency custody order.

Current policy allows a person to be held for up to four hours while they're evaluated, with a two-hour extension if a magistrate approves.

Deeds' legislation would extend that period to 24 hours.

"UVA's study shows that we streeted... about 329 people in 2011," Deeds told lawmakers. "So what we're talking about in extending this period is making sure that we don't street those 329 people again, because I will tell you every one of these situations is life and death."

Despite concerns about the impact on law enforcement agencies in rural areas, the Senate advanced Deeds' bill to a final vote next week.

And the issue will remain in the headlines as the House and Senate reconcile a number of different mental health proposals during the month that remains in the General Assembly session.