Saturday, January 23, 2016


Virginia’s privatized mental health care system is a shambles and may be riddled with corruption and incompetence.
            State Senator Creigh Deeds is absolutely right to file a $6 million wrongful death suit against the state of Virginia, a mental health evaluator, and an agency that did not find a hospital bed for his mentally ill son. That son, denied a bed when some were available, ended up repeatedly stabbing his father and then killing himself.
            The sad truth is when young Austin Deeds was having a psychotic incident and needed hospitalization; the Deeds family was told there were no beds available. Beds were available; the young man could have been evaluated and treated. The person checking on bed-availability didn’t have the correct phone number. This is incompetence at its worst—it cost a life and brought agony to a family trying to get help for their seriously ill son.
            Governor McAuliffe, since the Deeds tragedy, has signed a law that allows more time to find beds for psychiatric patients. The law also compels the state to maintain a “real-time” online registry of available beds. If you are dealing with people who cannot even get the phone numbers correct, how can you expect them to operate and maintain a “real-time” online registry of available beds.  The actions of the state legislature and the Governor are too little, too late for the Deeds family.
            The closing of state-run mental health facilities is coming home to roost; it certainly did for the Deeds family. It is hard to believe that a state facility could do a poorer job than did the Rockbridge Community Services Board in dispatching Michael Gentry to evaluate young Deeds.
            The fact is that the Virginia legislature repeatedly cut mental health funding; it has closed hospitals, and turned the mental health program over to incompetents who cannot even get a phone number straight.
            The Virginia General Assembly should be ashamed of itself for tightening the budget at the expense of one of the most vulnerable segments of society—the mentally ill.

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