Tags: deeds | tragedy | psychiatric | beds

Lack of Virginia Psychiatric Bed Set Stage for Deeds Tragedy

By Elliot Jager   |   Wednesday, 20 Nov 2013 04:35 AM

Austin "Gus" Deeds, who allegedly stabbed his father Virginia Democratic State Sen. Creigh Deeds in the face and chest and then mortally shot himself, had been issued a magistrate's emergency order Monday for psychiatric custody, but was sent home because no beds were available, The Washington Post reported.
Thirteen hours before the incident, the 24 year-old Deeds had been evaluated for an unknown psychiatric condition.

Mental health authorities called several hospitals looking for a bed but one could not be found in the vicinity of his rural Bath County community about 100 miles from Charlottesville, according to the Post.

Some 200 patients believed to have posed a threat to themselves or others were turned away from Virginia psychiatric facilities in 2011, according to a report by the state's Inspector General's Office.

The report asked: "How can the Commonwealth ignore the medical advice of the treating physician who states unequivocally that this treatment is medically necessary for his patient?"

In 2012, a follow-up report by the same office noted that over a 90-day period 72 individuals — who met the statutory criteria for temporary detention in a psychiatric facility — were "streeted" or sent back into the community because Virginia's psychiatric facilities, particularly those in rural areas, have seen their services downsized.

Friends described Austin Deeds as musically talented, proud of his southern heritage, and with a sweet disposition, according to the Richmond Times Dispatch. Before he dropped out of William and Mary College in October, Austin had been a music major.

In 2007, Seung-Hui Cho, known to be suffering from a psychiatric disorder, killed 32 people and wounded 15 others at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg before shooting himself. He had earlier been briefly hospitalized.

Those killings drew attention to Virginia's mental health system, which advocates say remains financially "starved," according to the Post.

Besides budgetary constraints there has also been a move away from institutionalizing the mentally ill. "Over the past 50 years [there has been] too little institutionalizing of teenagers and young adults (particularly men, generally more prone to violence) who have had a recent onset of schizophrenia," according to Paul Steinberg a psychiatrist in private practice.

A friend of the senator's, Del. David J. Toscano, D-Charlottesville, said that father and son had been "very close" and that Creigh Deeds "spent a lot of time trying to help his son."

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