McDonnell directs statewide review of mental health system after Deeds incident

November 20, 2013

Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) (Steve Helber/AP)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) says he has directed the Commonwealth’s secretary of health and human resources to review the sequence of events that led the son of state Sen. Creigh Deeds (D) to be released from psychiatric care the day before he apparently stabbed his father and then shot himself to death.

McDonnell said he ordered Secretary Bill Hazel to evaluate the “overall capacity of our mental health system, not just at the state level but also at the local level to see what more we can do.”

Austin Deeds, who was 24, had undergone psychiatric evaluation on Monday. Officials initially said he was not admitted to a hospital because no bed was available. But several nearby hospitals said later they had available space, though they were never contacted.

“We’re going to investigate the circumstances that led up to Austin Deeds’s release at the expiration of the emergency custody order,” G. Douglas Bevelacqua, a spokesman for the Office of the Inspector General, told The Washington Post.

McDonnell, who is attending a Republican Governors’ Association conference in Scottsdale, Ariz., said there had been an apparent breakdown between state and local layers of the Commonwealth’s mental health system. And, he said, he still has the opportunity to use his final budget proposal as governor to recommend changes and updates to the statewide system.

“If there are budget needs in this upcoming budget, I can address those. I’ve still got two more weeks before I’ve got to submit the budget, and if there are glaring problems, I can address those,” McDonnell said in an interview. “Whatever I think is the prudent steps to take with regard to bed capacity to avoid this kind of tragedy, I’m going to be looking to take in the budget.”

Deeds, who had been airlifted to a Charlottesville hospital, was upgraded to good condition. He is recovering from stab wounds to the face and chest. An autopsy conducted by the Office of the Medical Examiner found that Austin Deeds had died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound fired from a rifle.

– Laura Vozzella and Ben Pershing contributed.

Read more of the Post‘s coverage here.tsdal

Reid Wilson covers state politics and policy for the Washington Post's GovBeat blog. He's a former editor in chief of The Hotline, the premier tip sheet on campaigns and elections, and he's a complete political junkie.
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Reid Wilson · November 20, 2013