NASHVILLE, Tenn. – State Rep. Tim Rudd, R-Murfreesboro, this week announced legislation that will create a pathway for families and people with the most severe and violent cases ofmental illnesses to access treatment.

The “Violent Mental Health Care Reform Act of 2020” (HB969 / SB1344) would create a process for a parent, legal guardian, spouse, responsible relative, physician, or law enforcement to petition a court to order treatment when a person is determined to pose a serious threat of violence to others. Research shows a very strong correlation between untreated severe mental illness and violence.

“There are almost no options available when an individual is experiencing a mental health crisis and threatening violence against others. This legislation gives our judges another tool to help people with serious mental illness get treatment before they commit a violent act,” said Rudd.

The Violent Mental Health Care Reform Act of 2020 would only be applicable in 14 Tennessee counties that currently have a Mental Health Court, but could be expanded later. The law would allow a judge to order an evaluation by a licensed psychiatrist who would determine if the individual meet criteria for hospitalization or treatment. It would only apply to individuals who make multiple threats of violence.

The law also provides protections for the rights of individuals believed to be experiencing a mental health crisis and guarantees them the right to counsel.

“We’ve seen evidence of people who desperately needed treatment for severe mental illness fall through the cracks time and time again and then what tragically resulted was a hate crime or mass shooting or other heinous act of violence,” Rudd said. “We must act now to advance meaningful mental health reform that will provide safeguards and resources for families who are struggling to intervene when a loved one is in desperate crisis. We cannot afford to wait any longer to enact legislation that will save lives by helping to prevent these kinds of tragedies.”

Tim Rudd serves as chairman of the Elections & Campaign Finance Subcommittee. He is a member of the House Insurance, and House Local Committees, as well as the House Property & Casualty Subcommittee. Rudd lives in Murfreesboro and represents Tennessee House District 34, which includes a portion of Rutherford County.