VOCAL is monitoring barrier crime legislation introduced this session very closely. There were two separate bills to provide exclusions for barrier crimes in relation to the behavioral health field introduced this year – HB479 and SB555.

HB479 was a very progressive bill and offered a comprehensive list of exclusions to barrier crimes if those crimes were a result of one’s mental health or substance use challenges. While still a move in the right direction for Virginia, SB555 only offers an exclusion for burglary and it barely passed the Senate floor. As a result, Delegate McQuinn, chief patron of HB479, made a strategic move by dropping the bill.

SB555 was assigned to the House of Delegates’ Health, Welfare, and Institutions (HWI) committee earlier in the month. The HWI committee assigned SB555 to Subcommittee #2 after last week’s crossover and the committee will hear the bill on Tuesday, 2/20/18.

It is clear, with SB555 barely passing the Senate floor, that it is absolutely imperative to educate our legislators on the importance of peer services and the positive impact they have on one’s life, including the positive impact that one’s experience of incarceration can afford our peers currently experiencing incarceration. Peer services are an evidence-based practice that also reduce recidivism. There is dual stigma attached to experiencing mental health or substance use challenges along with incarceration, particularly while searching for viable employment. THIS MUST STOP!!!

VOCAL published this document for its use in educating legislators on the importance of peer services and the impact of barrier crimes on those services. Please feel free to use this piece for educational purposes while contacting your legislators should you so desire.

Your voice is needed in relation to this important piece of legislation! Contacting your legislator is a great start, yet, contacting members of the subcommittee to which the bill is assigned is essential; your legislator will not see this bill if it doesn’t pass out of subcommittee.

SB555 is on the HWI Subcommittee #2 docket THIS Tuesday, 2/20/18, at 8:00 am in the House Committee Room  (UPDATED time and location) of the Pocahontas Building.

ACT NOW!!! Please feel free to join VOCAL at the committee meeting on Tuesday or use this list to contact members of the HWI Subcommittee #2 to let them know your thoughts on SB555.

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