Designated Support Persons

Chapter 220 (2021 Acts of Assembly, Special Session I) requires every medical care facility to allow a person with a disability who requires support and assistance necessary due to the specifics of their disability to be accompanied by a designated support person who will provide support and assistance necessary during an admission. In any case in which the duration of the admission lasts more than 24 hours, the person with a disability may designate more than one designated support person. However, medical care facilities are not required to allow more than one designated support person to be present with a person with a disability at any time. This legislation builds on the previously enacted Item 300(F) in Chapter 56 (2020 Acts of Assembly, Special Session I) that addressed designated support person requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Regulations in Development

Though Code of Virginia § 32.1-137.08 lays out the general designated support requirements, the State Board of Health is developing more specific requirements in regulation. Information about this regulatory work and others that the OLC is working on is linked below.

Current Regulatory Projects

Current Guidance

While regulations are being developed, an interim guidance document has been published to help medical care facilities understand their obligations and VDH's expectations for the designated support person requirement. Your may review the guidance by clicking on the link below.

Interim Guidance

File a Complaint

The Office of Licensure and Certification carries out enforcement activities for medical care facilities. If you believe that a general hospital, outpatient surgical hospital, or hospice facility has not complied with all the requirements for a designated support person, please file a complaint with us.

Complaint Unit

Frequently Asked Questions

Medical care facilities covered by this requirement are licensed general hospitals, licensed outpatient surgical hospitals, and licensed hospice facilities

A person with a disability is someone who, prior to admission to a medical care facility, had a physical, sensory, mental, or emotional impairment that substantially limits one or more activities of daily living or has a record of such impairment.

A medical care facility may request that a patient provide documentation indicating that they are a person with a disability. If a patient fails, refuses, or is unable to provide such documentation, the medical care facility may perform an objective assessment of the patient to determine whether they have a disability. However, if a patient doesn't produce documentation and the medical care facility fails to perform the objective assessment, a medical care facility cannot deny a patient access to a designated support person providing support and assistance necessary due to the specifics of the patient's disability.

No, a designated support person is not a visitor and is not be subject to any visitation restrictions, including visitation hours. However, a designated support person may be required to comply with all reasonable requirements of the medical care facility adopted to protect the health and safety of others. A medical care facility may restrict a designated support person's access to specified areas of and movement on the premises of the medical care facility (e.g., operating rooms), when such restrictions are determined by the medical care facility to be reasonably necessary to protect the health and safety of others.

Every medical care facility has to:

  • establish protocols to inform patients, at the time of admission, of the right of a person with a disability who requires support and assistance necessary due to the specifics of the person's disability to be accompanied by a designated support person for the purpose of providing the necessary support and assistance;
  • develop and make available upon request written information regarding the right of a person with a disability who requires support and assistance necessary due to the specifics of the person's disability to be accompanied by a designated support person and policies related to this right; and
  • publish written information on its website regarding the right of a person with a disability who requires support and assistance necessary due to the specifics of the person's disability to be accompanied by a designated support person and policies related to this right.

No, Chapter 220 (2021 Acts of Assembly, Special Session I) does not alter a medical care facility's existing obligation patients with effective communication support or other required services, regardless of the presence of a designated support person or other reasonable accommodation, consistent with applicable federal or state law or regulations.

No, Chapter 220 (2021 Acts of Assembly, Special Session I) does not require that. Medical care facilities may refuse to allow a designated support person to provide support or assistance necessary due to the specifics of the person's disability, if that particular support or assistance is medically or therapeutically contraindicated or would pose a threat to the health and safety of others--including the patient--at the medical care facility.