Senate Judiciary Chair Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, says if his committee can’t approve a bill streamlining the state’s involuntary treatment procedures by the end of next week, it won’t leave sufficient time for the Health and Welfare panel to work through it.
Sears’ committee spent Wednesday taking testimony and discussing a proposed amendment from Sen. Jeanette White, D-Windham.
There are lingering questions about which patients would qualify for an expedited involuntary commitment process, whether applications for involuntary treatment and medication should be filed jointly and whether there should be a stay pending appeal.
The Judiciary Committee decided not to include a proposal that would prevent involuntary treatment cases that have not been adjudicated from being sent to the federal firearm background check database, which Vermont doesn’t currently report to anyway.
There is a separate bill that Sen. Alice Nitka, D-Windsor, said could result in lawmakers tacking on unrelated gun legislation to the involuntary treatment bill.
Legislative council will draft a new bill based on Wednesday’s testimony and committee discussion, which the committee will mark up and likely vote on next week.
The Senate Health and Welfare Committee is responsible for ensuring the bill gives acute psychiatric patients access to appropriate and high quality care.
The committee took additional testimony from clinicians, attorneys and other stakeholders, probing the difficult issues and externalities that arise when disturbed patients refuse treatment.
Sen. Claire Ayer, D-Addison, chair of Senate Health and Welfare, said she is confident her committee can finish its work on the bill with sufficient time to have a vote.
Senate Pro Tem John Campbell, D-Windsor, said he doesn’t plan to expedite the bill, but if it’s ready for introduction on the floor before town meeting week, he expects it will get a vote on the floor.