State Senator Creigh Deeds is recovering after being stabbed at his Bath County home yesterday, evidently by his 24-year-old son. The attack and subsequent apparent suicide by Gus Deeds have raised new concerns about whether Virginia provides adequate mental health services. We have more on Gus Deeds’ case and what experts hope will happen next.
Gus Deeds had been assessed by mental health professionals who hoped to hospitalize him, but no psychiatric beds could be found in all of Western Virginia, so he was sent home.
At Virginia’s office of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Mira Signer says that’s par for the course in the Commonwealth.
“Professionals have to spend hours on the phone sometimes, calling around for beds."
Ironically, this story broke as the new Western State Psychiatric Hospital opened in Staunton, and Signer says Virginia may not need more hospital beds.
“A lot of other states have gotten by with even fewer hospital beds than Virginia has. They really beefed up their crisis response services, their community mental health capacity and those kinds of things.”
By doing that, she says, some beds might be freed up for emergency cases where inpatient care is essential. Signer adds that Virginia has been on a roller coaster when it comes to funding mental health. Lawmakers allocated an additional $40 million after the Virginia Tech shootings, but much of that money was cut during the recession. Now, she hopes the legislature will consider restoring those funds.
“I’m pretty sure that in the coming days and weeks we’ll be seeing initiatives that will in some way try to get at this issue, because I think people are really moved and upset by what happened.”
She stresses that most people with mental illness are not violent, and she hopes the Deeds case does not further stigmatize a medical problem that is prevalent and should be openly addressed.