NC General Assembly passes major update to mental health law

Coalition-endorsed reforms aim to improve right care, right place for those in crisis

Raleigh, NC – June 14, 2018 – North Carolina lawmakers today approved an overhaul of a significant portion of the state’s mental health law regarding involuntary commitment (IVC) of individuals in behavioral health crisis. The action represents the first major revision to IVC legislation since the adoption of the Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Act of 1985. Primary sponsors of Senate Bill 630 and companion House Bill 564 were Sen. Ralph Hise, Sen. Joyce Krawiec, Sen. Shirley Randleman, Rep. Josh Dobson, Rep. Susan Martin, Rep. Donny Lambeth and Rep. Chris Malone.

“Involuntary treatment should be regarded as just one of the options for individuals in behavioral health crisis,” said bill sponsors Senator Ralph Hise and Rep. Josh Dobson. “These changes to the law are essential to improve the IVC process and begin to stem the costly cycle of crisis plaguing families, employers and infrastructure in our communities.”

All 50 U.S. states have IVC laws designed to protect individuals in crisis and those around them when the individual is unwilling or unable to consent to treatment. However, evidence suggests that IVC is frequently misused to fill gaps in North Carolina’s fragmented mental health system.

“Every two and a half minutes, someone in a behavioral health crisis arrives at a hospital emergency department in North Carolina, but that is not always the best place for them to receive the treatment they need,” said Steve Lawler, NCHA president. “This important action by the NC General Assembly will help prevent unnecessary delays in treatment by guiding people to the right care at the right place.”

The reforms were developed with the input of statewide multi-sector behavioral health workgroups convened over a two-year period by the North Carolina Healthcare Association. Some key provisions include:

  • Requires health screening for patients in crisis to rule out symptoms that may be mistaken for psychiatric conditions.
  • Expands the workforce for first examinations to include 19,800 nurse practitioners (NPs), licensed professional counselors (LPCs), and physician assistants (PAs) already licensed to diagnose mental illness.
  • Promotes creation of community crisis plans by care providers and law enforcement to get patients to the most appropriate care location.

           See more bill highlights here.

State law enforcement representatives have been actively involved in development of the legislation and are united in their support of the bill.

“Law enforcement officers across our state encounter individuals every day who are experiencing a mental health crisis,” said Eddie Caldwell, executive vice president of the NC Sheriff’s Association. “The primary aim of those law enforcement officers is to ensure the safety of the individuals needing mental health assistance and anyone they encounter. That includes guiding them to the right place for care and treatment. We are proud to support this legislation and appreciate the cooperation of so many stakeholders in the process.”

The bill now goes to Governor Roy Cooper for his signature.


NCHA is a trade association representing more than 130 hospitals providing acute care, rehabilitative, behavioral, psychiatric and veterans’ services. The association promotes improved delivery of quality and affordable health care in North Carolina through leadership, advocacy, information, and education in its members’ interest and for public benefit

For information, contact:
Julie Henry,  NCHA

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