“The real work lies ahead” with reforming Virginia’s mental health care system, State Sen. R. Creigh Deeds told a national audience this week.
He’s spot on.
The General Assembly has taken some significant but still incomplete steps toward upgrading the state’s system, whose serious shortcomings Deeds believes contributed to the suicide of his 24-year-old son Nov. 18.
The legislature did extend from six to 12 hours the time a patient can be held on an emergency basis before being committed under a judge’s temporary detention order. If such an order is granted, the patient can be held 12 hours longer than the previous 48 hours. A statewide database will also be set up to help health officials find emergency psychiatric beds.
Good steps, but hardly enough. The state is supposed to take a much longer look at its health-care system, especially in rural areas where help can be hours away. The troubles were underlined recently when G. Douglas Bevelacqua, the head of the state inspector general’s behavioral health and developmental services division, resigned to protest revisions state officials made to a damning report he had written. Bevelacqua suggests the problems are system-wide.
The Deeds case shows that Gus Deeds, R. Creigh Deeds’ son, was trapped in a quagmire of missed phone calls and wrong fax numbers and somehow was denied a bed he badly needed. Help was available but could not be located. Deeds was released only to attack his father and shoot himself the next day.
The country badly needs to address its mental health issues. That’s especially true in Virginia, the scene of a horrific mass shooting at Virginia Tech in 2007.
Deeds is right. The real work hasn’t been done.