Deeds’s mental health reform proposals advance in Va. Senate

A set of proposals by Sen. R. Creigh Deeds to close gaps in Virginia’s mental health system advanced in the state Senate on Thursday.

The Senate Education and Health Committee endorsed the measures, which he introduced after returning to work earlier this month, still bearing scars from the November attack by his son, Austin “Gus” Deeds.

Deeds, 24, stabbed his father and took his own life after a psychiatric bed could not be found for him within the legally mandated six-hour time frame.

The Democratic senator from Bath told his story on two national television shows in order to build support for reform of a system he said failed his son.

Deeds’s proposal parallels one that is making its way through the House. Both proposals would give mental health workers more time to find psychiatric beds, establish a bed registry and, if a bed can’t be found in time, would require Virginia to provide a bed of last resort in a state facility.

There is one significant difference between the bills: Deeds’s proposal would extend the time within which a bed must be found to a maximum of 24 hours; the House bill proposes a new limit of eight hours.

Deeds’s bill now goes to the Senate Finance Committee, which will determine its cost.

Annys Shin has been a staff writer at the Washington Post since 2004.
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