News & Politics

Creigh Deeds Stabbing and Son's Death Highlight Mental Healthcare Gaps

No bed available for desperately sick young man.

Photo Credit: Tarasov/Shutterstock.com

Virginia state Sen. Creigh Deeds, the 2009 Democratic nominee for governor, was upgraded from critical to fair condition Tuesday after being stabbed in the face and chest by his son Austin (called Gus), who then fatally shot himself. Now the case is refocusing attention on Virginia's inadequate mental health system: Gus Deeds underwent psychiatric evaluationMonday and would have been admitted to the hospital overnight, but no beds were available:

On Monday, a magistrate issued an emergency custody order for Austin Deeds, who was also known as Gus, after he had been evaluated by officials at the Rockbridge County Community Services Board, said Mary Ann Bergeron, the executive director of the Virginia Association of Community Services Boards. The boards oversee the local provision of mental-health services across Virginia. [...]

Rockbridge officials had called hospitals in the area looking for a spot but were unable to find one, Bergeron said. “I can tell you right now, it was multiple hospitals that they called,” she said. “That is a very rural area. The hospitals are few and far between.”

Temporary detention orders require an available bed, and a 2012 investigation found that in one 90-day period, beds could not be found for 72 people who otherwise were in serious enough condition to be held involuntarily. After the Virginia Tech massacre, the state invested in mental health, but six years later, the mental health system is still, or again, obviously inadequate. Likely this case will once again prompt expressions of concern over the issue in the legislature, but as we've seen so many times, it's less likely to produce the kind of real investment that leads to lasting change.