West Virginia Law Review

Document Type

Student Note


"Fate makes our relatives... ", The treatment, care and maintenance received by the mentally ill and the mentally retarded in state hospitals do not fall into the traditional category of public welfare. Unlike other programs which assist the disadvantaged, most mental health laws impose a statutory duty on the recipient or his family to reimburse the state for all or part of the maintenance and treatment costs. West Virginia is among the jurisdictions which have adopted such laws. This state has statutory provisions5 which require reimbursement from the patient and designated family members. The amount the patient, or his family, is required to pay depends on the per patient cost at the individual institution. During the first six months of 1982, patients at the various West Virginia hospitals were billed anywhere between $10.94 and $56.00 per day for their care and maintenance. The majority of patients billed made partial or no payments. The money collected for reimbursement, in this state, is placed in a new fund which gives health administrators an incentive for strictly enforcing the reimbursement statute. Recent legislation allows the Department of Health to develop a long range plan for mental health facilities financed by collections from patients. In addition to new emphasis on collection, state institutions are under judicial pressure to provide more adequate and professional custody and treatment as mandated by the legislature. Improvements in physical conditions and professional treatment will indirectly increase the cost of patient care which is ultimately placed on the patient or his family. This note focuses on the rights and responsibilities of the patient and his family under the West Virginia cost reimbursement statute." The analysis includes a brief comparison between the West Virginia scheme and the more detailed Virginia provisions. The note also provides estate and family financial planning suggestions to help the patient and his family cover the institutional costs. While the patient's financial responsibilities will be discussed, the key emphasis of this note is on the family, especially the parents and spouse.



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