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Beds Were Available For Creigh Deeds' Son, Contradicting Early Reports

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Psychiatric beds were available in Virginia for the son of Creigh Deeds.
Michal Porebiak: http://www.flickr.com/photos/gilus/2755612875/
Psychiatric beds were available in Virginia for the son of Creigh Deeds.

A community mental health organization is in the spotlight today, after yesterday's attack on Virginia State Sen. Creigh Deeds and the apparent suicide of his son.

There were widespread reports Gus Deeds had undergone a psychiatric evaluation Monday, but was not admitted for in-patient care, because no hospitals in the area had psychiatric beds available. But in fact, several facilities in the region could have admitted Gus Deeds.

Original reports contradicted

State law allows people to be held, against their will, for up to six hours if they pose a risk to themselves of others.

During that time, mental health professionals are supposed to assess and, if necessary, hospitalize them, but the executive director of Rockbridge Area Community Services told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that they were unable to find a psychiatric bed in the region for Senator Creigh Deeds' son.

Now, three medical centers no more than two hours' drive from Deeds' home claimed they had room, but they were not called.

"This past Monday night we did have availability of inpatient beds," says Deborah Thompson with RMH, a hospital in Harrisonburg. "In fact we did admit several patients to the inpatient unit on Monday, however we did not speak with anyone from the Rockbridge CSB."

UVA's Medical Center and the new Western State Hospital in Staunton also claimed they had space. Rockbridge Area Community Services did not return calls, but other mental health professionals insist they spend hours trying to place patients, a point confirmed two years ago by Virginia's Inspector General.

Agreement on mental health issues possible

Lawmakers have welcomed the news that Deeds was upgraded from fair to good condition, but there are calls for action coming from the state government. Congressman Scott Rigell (R-Va.) says more needs to be done to address mental illness.

"This was an acute and profoundly sad example and our hearts and, of course, our prayers go out to the Deeds family," Rigell says.

As details continue to emerge, lawmakers say one thing is evident: the commonwealth isn't doing enough for people with mental illnesses.

"There's no question the state needs to devote a lot more resources to mental health," says Congressman Gerry Connolly. "I mean how many tragedies we do need to experience in Virginia before action is taken in Richmond?"

While the two parties can't seem to find any agreement on gun measures, Congressman Rigell says mental health issues are different.

"There is agreement here, I believe, that there is not enough resources being directed to mental health, and the implications are so serious and, of course, none more tragic than the one that just unfolded," he says.

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