A long-awaited report on the death of a Virginia state senator’s son has been held at the request of state police conducting a criminal investigation, officials said Wednesday.
Austin “Gus” Deeds attacked his father, state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds (D-Bath), before killing himself in November. Since that time, the state inspector general has been preparing a report on the role of Virginia’s mental-health system in the incident. That report was completed March 10, Inspector General Michael Morehart said, but it has not been released out of courtesy to state police.
“It would be wholly imprudent and improper not to comply with that type of request,” Morehart said. “We don’t want to impede an investigation or hamper one. . . . We’re not trying to hide anything, obviously, but we’re trying to be responsible.”
A spokeswoman for the state police confirmed the request to delay the report, but she said the continuing investigation is not a sign of looming criminal charges in a case where the antagonist is deceased.
“The criminal investigation remains ongoing at this time,” Corinne Geller said in a statement. “As is standard [state police] procedure, the criminal investigative findings will be turned over to the Commonwealth’s Attorney for review and final adjudication.”
Morehart acknowledged the frustration among observers, including several lawmakers, that his report was not released in time for the legislature to incorporate its findings into mental-health reforms. The report may not come out until after final budget negotiations are complete, meaning any additional changes lawmakers want to pursue would have to wait until next year’s session of the General Assembly.
“I couldn’t control the events that took place, when they took place or when the session ended,” Morehart said. “We did the best we could, considering the circumstances.”
Among the critics is the former investigator in charge of examining the Deeds incident, G. Douglas Bevelacqua, who resigned this month over what he described as censorship of his findings. He said at the time that if he had been permitted to do so, he would have released the report weeks earlier.
The day before his violent outburst, 24-year-old Austin Deeds was denied temporary detention in a psychiatric hospital because officials said a bed could not be found.
Deeds spearheaded efforts in Virginia to prevent another such failure, saying that even as he lay in a hospital bed recovering from his own stabbing wounds, he had begun thinking of ways to prevent a similar tragedy. Among the reforms he shepherded through the legislature are bills giving emergency clinicians more time to find a psychiatric bed and requiring the state to provide a bed of last resort if one is not found. An online real-time bed registry, in development for years but not launched until early March, was mandated. Lawmakers also instituted closer monitoring of court-ordered outpatient treatment.
“It’s a significant first step, but there’s so much more to do,” Deeds said as the changes were passed into law.
To that end, the legislature launched a four-year study of a broader overhaul. But advocates remain concerned that the fundamental problems with the state’s mental-health system will simply fester until the next crisis. More outpatient services are needed to keep people out of hospitals in the first place, they argue.
“It is hard not to be skeptical,” James Reinhard, a psychiatrist and former commissioner for the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, told The Washington Post. “It is a repeated pattern of making recommendations and getting a little bit of effort that is not sustained.”
Funding for mental health will almost certainly be increased in the state budget. Similar infusions of funds came after the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007. However, community service board members say subsequent budget cuts and increased demand left them no better off than before.
The delay of the Deeds report was first reported by the Daily Progress.