Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Virginia State News

January 29, 2014

Va. mental health task force issues 2 proposals

RICHMOND, Va. — A task force created after a state senator’s mentally ill son attacked him with a knife is proposing a wider window to ensure that people who are a threat to themselves or others can get the emergency psychiatric care they need.

The Governor’s Task Force on Improving Mental Health Services and Crisis Response also voted Tuesday to back a 72-hour limit on temporary detention orders, The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported. The orders to hold someone in a psychiatric crisis are now capped at 48 hours.

The 37-member task force was created by then-Gov. Bob McDonnell after Sen. R. Creigh Deeds was stabbed by his son, Austin “Gus” Deeds, on Aug. 19 at the family’s remote homestead in Bath County. The younger Deeds killed himself after he attacked his father, who survived.

Gus Deeds, who was 24, had been released from an emergency custody order hours earlier after a local community services board said it was unable to locate an available psychiatric bed in the area within the six hours allotted by law.  

The task force recommended doubling that time, to 12 hours, as well as the additional 24 hours to hold someone involuntarily.

The panel called for more secure assessment centers across Virginia. They would preferably be attached to hospitals that provide a therapeutic setting for mental health evaluations and security, which would ease the burden on local law officers of waiting hours for the outcome.

The recommendations are the first to emerge from the task force.

Besides the creation of the task force, McDonnell also proposed more than $38 million in state funding over the next two-year budget cycle for critical mental health services. The General Assembly is also expected to consider a number of bills intended to address the gaps in the state’s mental health services that were exposed by what happened to Deeds and his family.


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