Health Care

Actions have consequences

And so, sometimes, does lack of actions.

Creigh Deeds, who represents my part of Virginia in the State Senate, is hospitalized in fair condition after being stabbed multiple times by his mentally-disturbed son Gus, who then shot himself to death.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports:

Gus Deeds had been released Monday following a mental health evaluation performed under an emergency custody order…

Dennis Cropper, executive director of the Rockbridge County Community Services Board, [said] the emergency custody order, or ECO, allowed Gus Deeds to be held as long as four hours to determine whether he should be kept longer, up to 48 hours, under a temporary detention order.

The son was evaluated Monday at Bath Community Hospital, Cropper said, but was released because no psychiatric bed could be located across a wide area of western Virginia.

According to the Think Progress website:

[A]n ongoing trend of state governments slashing funds for mental health programs has greatly diminished the number of beds available to Americans with serious mental illnesses, including those who need emergency inpatient care.

“Many states appear to be effectively terminating a public psychiatric treatment system that has existed for nearly two centuries,” wrote researchers in a 2012 report by the Treatment Advocacy Center (TAC), a nonprofit group that examines mental health issues. “The system was originally created to protect both the patients and the public, and its termination is taking place with little regard for the consequences to either group.”

According to the report, Virginia eliminated 15 percent of its public psychiatric beds between 2005 and 2010. The state has just 17.6 such beds per 10,000 people — less than 40 percent of the recommended minimum 50 beds per 10,000 people. That didn’t stop Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-VA) from proposing even more cuts to mental health programs in 2012.


Mental health advocates often argue that community-based care is more effective than institutionalizing a mental health patient in state facilities. But state governments haven’t been nearly as amenable to funding community-based mental health programs as they have been to closing state wards and cutting funding. As a result, Americans with serious mental illnesses often wind up in jails rather than hospitals.

In a sad bit of irony, Sen. Deeds himself has long been a strong proponent of enhanced funding for community-based mental health programs.

Update: The Washington Post reports:

At least three hospitals near Bath County had available beds the day before the son of Virginia state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds apparently stabbed his father and then shot himself to death, officials confirmed Wednesday.

Deeds’s condition was upgraded to good at a Charlottesville hospital as investigators and mental-health officials continued to search for an explanation of what happened. Austin Deeds, who was 24, had undergone a psychiatric evaluation on Monday, but officials initially said he was not admitted to a hospital because no bed was available.

It remained unclear Wednesday which hospitals were called and why Austin Deeds was not taken to one of the available facilities.

Obviously some people have some explaining to do.