Deeds reacts to mental health reform bill signed into law - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

Deeds reacts to mental health reform bill signed into law


It was an emotional day less than six months since the event that changed state Sen. Creigh Deeds's life forever.  Deeds was nearly killed after being attacked by his son Gus, on their family farm last November. Gus was experiencing a mental health crisis and later took his own life.

On Monday, Virginia began the process of working to make sure something like this never happens again.

Through tears, Senator Deeds watched as Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed what he hopes is the first of many bills into law that will overhaul the state's mental health system

It is a mission he feels he was left on this earth to fulfill. 

These days it doesn't take much for Deeds to get emotional, in this case it was the simple stroke of a pen.

McAuliffe's signature ushered into law reforms that had they been in place six months ago. Gus Deeds may still be alive.

"These are a few very important steps on a couple of major issues that we needed to deal with today," said McAuliffe.

The reforms mirror the problems the Deeds family faced in November.

First, the time a person can be detained under emergency custody has been doubled. They must also be admitted to a state hospital no matter what.

The state will now have a database that updates where beds are available so no one gets shut out.

The clock ran out on Gus Deeds' time in emergency custody and they could not find a bed for him to be admitted to. He was instead sent home.

The bill signing took place at UVA Medical Center. It is the very hospital where Sen. Deeds was brought after the incident that sparked this reform.

But everyone--especially Deeds--made it clear this is only the beginning.

"We still have a lot of work to do," he said.

And if it is up to Deeds, a lot more change is on the way.

"We are going to remake the system for mental health care in Virginia," he promised. "We are going to remake the public system. We are going to make it more responsive and more efficient."

And given what Deeds has accomplished already, it would be wise not to bet against him.

All of this will cost money--perhaps significantly more. Much of this goes right back to the same debate happening right now in the General Assembly, Medicaid Expansion. A standoff that right now threatens to shut down Virginia's government.

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