Health & Human Services

Virginia Senator's Stabbing Sparks Investigation, Call for Mental Health Reform

November 21, 2013
Virginia State Sen. Creigh Deeds ran for governor in 2009.
Virginia State Sen. Creigh Deeds ran for governor in 2009. David Kidd/Governing

The tragedy involving Sen. Creigh Deeds and his family has drawn the spotlight to mental health services in Virginia.

And one of Virginia's mental health laws regarding emergency admissions is out of step with similar laws in other states.

When someone is believed to be mentally ill, and possibly poses a risk to themselves or others, the person can be admitted for a psychiatric evaluation and held initially up to 30 hours in Maryland, 48 hours in D.C., but just four to six hours in Virginia.

"We have sort of a Kabuki dance that we make the authorities go through," says Sen. Dick Black, R-Leesburg, a member of the Education and Health Committee.

"You can't get anything done in four to six hours," Black says.

He says he plans to introduce legislation in the upcoming General Assembly session to expand the initial time period for a mental health evaluation to 48 hours.

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Deeds was stabbed multiple times in the head and upper torso. His son, Austin "Gus" Deeds was found dead Tuesday morning at the family's Bath County home of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Sen. Deeds was listed in good condition Wednesday afternoon at the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville, where he was flown after the altercation with his son.

Police have said they are investigating the case as an attempted murder-suicide but have not released details of what led to the stabbing and Gus' death. The Richmond Times-Dispatch has reported that Deeds sought emergency psychiatric care for his son on Monday but that no hospital beds were immediately available in the rural, mountainous area.

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