Advocates say Deeds stabbing shows VA's mental health trouble

NBC12 Investigation: Virginia's Mental Health System

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Mental health advocates are pointing to the attack on Senator Creigh Deeds as evidence Virginia doesn't treat mental illness as a priority or as a potentially deadly disease.

Deeds was airlifted to UVa Medical Center Tuesday to receive treatment for stab wounds. Police believe he was attacked by his son, who reportedly couldn't get the treatment he needed because there wasn't a bed in a psychiatric hospital available for him.

"It does happen where someone needs to go to the hospital and a bed is not available," said Mira Signer with the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Virginia. "It's just unacceptable."

According to Signer, after the Virginia Tech massacre the General Assembly pumped money into the mental health system. In fact, as a state lawmaker Deeds himself spoke out about improving it.

However, the following year along with the recession, that money was taken away. Since 2008, Signer says, funding for mental health has been a roller coaster ride.

"Virginia is almost talking out of both sides of its mouth," said Signer. "They're saying mental health is very important but not prioritizing it and not funding it at the level it needs to be funded."

While Signer says, state lawmakers are taking steps in the right direction just last year a study showed that over a period of 90 days, 72 people were turned away from psychiatric hospitals even though under state law, they should have been treated.

According to the Richmond Behavioral Health Authority, in our area turning people away is rare, but does happen.

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