By Mason Votes Staff Writer Ethan Vaughan
Republican attorney general candidate Ken Cuccinelli appeared at last night’s meeting of the George Mason University College Republicans and urged Virginia voters to stand behind him on the issue of mental health reform.
“This isn’t just a personal safety issue for these [mentally ill] individuals,” Cuccinelli said. “It’s a public safety issue. Some of these people are being victimized because they’re vulnerable. Often they suffer from petty crime.”
Cucinelli advocated what he called a “step-down” process, wherein doctors would have more authority to move mentally ill patients from in-patient to out-patient treatment.
“I worked as a court-appointed attorney in mental health hearings,” Cucinelli said. “It’s a slow, cumbersome process. If a patient in a detention order proceeding is found to be mentally ill, they can be held on an in-patient basis, or an out-patient basis. The doctor can’t move them from in-patient to out-patient without another hearing, and we should give doctors that kind of authority to move patients to a less restrictive kind of care. It would be more cost-effective, and it would have an enormous impact in giving more opportunity to patients.”
Cuccinelli also called for changes in the way the mentally ill are dealt with in the prison system, which he said “amounts to a mental facility of last resort.”
“I don’t want to minimize their culpability,” Cuccinelli said. “But there are a lot of people who wouldn’t be in jail in the first place if it weren’t for their mental health issues. We need to change the statutes we have and get these folks treatment that is more appropriate. Deputies aren’t trained to deal with mental health issues, so they resort to things like imposed isolation to handle it, and that’s a problem. We need to deal with these people in a way that’s more humane and more effective.”
Cuccinelli also called for a vigorous defense of Virginia’s right-to-work status, which he alleged is threatened by Democrats in Congress. He said that as attorney general, he would bring legal challenge to any attempts by the national government to infringe upon what he called a “sovereign right.”
The attorney general candidate credited right-to-work laws for heavily contributing to Virginia’s economic prosperity in recent years and said they have given it “an advantage economically over our sister states.”