Approaching the mental health crisis: What can Virginia do? - NBC12.com - Richmond, VA News

Approaching the mental health crisis: What can Virginia do?

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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -

It was a call to action. The death of Senator Creigh deeds son, and the tragic event that led to his suicide is bringing new attention to mental health reform in Virginia.

There is no one solution to the mental health crisis, but the problem is not one of solutions- it is one of access, and the willingness of the state's leaders to make it happen.

Kristin Yavorsky is on the front lines of the mental health crisis.

"This was a failure of the system," she said of the Deed's tragedy.  

A social worker, Yavorsky works to find stable housing for people who are homeless, many of which are dealing with mental illness. She watched what happened with the Deeds and knew it was the system that let the prominent family down.

Yavorsky thinks the problem is pretty simple.

"You get what you pay for and for decades Virginia has not invested in community based health services," she said.

Not invested enough even though the state was the site of one of the worst mental health related tragedies in American history, the shootings at Virginia Tech.

"Virginia ranks in the top quarter in terms of per capita income and almost always we rank in the bottom quarter of states in terms of what we spend in terms of community based healthcare," said Yavorsky.

But even though we don't make the investment that doesn't mean we don't have the answers.

"It's remarkable the effect that the right intervention can have," said the social worker.

It is a matter of connecting the treatment with people in need, and the Deeds tragedy is bringing people of all stripes to answer that call.

People like Jarrod Nagurka and Patrick MacDonnell, two guys who disagree on everything from who they voted for governor to what they think of Obamacare.

The two students head up the UVA college democrats and republicans respectively. But when they learned of Deeds tragedy, they put their party affiliations aside and went to work.

"We both have the best interest of our commonwealth and our communities in our mind," said Nagurka.

The two groups drafted legislation that is currently making its way through the General Assembly that would set up a system to help college students easily access mental health services. It is a system that could've helped Gus Deeds, a college student dealing with a serious problem.

"We need to have this discussion, that is the only silver lining," said MacDonnell. "It is a true tragedy."

A discussion is important, but for Yavorsky- it is vital the talk doesn't end when the General Assembly goes home.

"We pay for state hospital beds we pay for emergency rooms we pay for law enforcement intervention when the less expensive option is also the more recovery oriented, the more effective option and it's not available to some folks," she said.  

And it won't be long before the Deeds tragedy is no longer in the spotlight, but the struggles of those dealing with mental illness will never go away.

And we have examples of some of the effective treatment options available- that many in need don't have access to on DecisionVirginia.com.

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