While the attack on State Senator Creigh Deeds and subsequent suicide by his son have brought more attention to the issue of mental health in Virginia, child advocates say there are significant gaps in how children and adolescents receive treatment.
It’s because since the tragedy last year, the number of young people who are admitted to mental health facilities has risen—but the number of available beds at a specialized facility has not.
Voices for Virginia's Children Policy Analyst Ashley Everett says since the Deeds tragedy, policymakers have focused on reforming the mental health system, specifically access and adult mental health issues.
She says the Commonwealth Center for Children and Adolescents in Staunton, the ONLY state-run inpatient psychiatric hospital for children, has seen a 36% increase in admissions since last year. The Center has only 48 acute care beds.
Children can go to some private hospitals if the Center has no beds, but they're not getting all of the services and detailed assessments that would diagnose if they're in crisis. Everett says more funding for community-based crisis stabilization centers and beds could help decrease demand for long-term, inpatient psychiatric services. That would allow children to stay closer to home, where they can receive more family support.