Mental health changes proposed

Published 11:35 pm Saturday, December 21, 2013

Gov. Bob McDonnell this week released recommendations from the state’s Secretary of Health and Human Services after his review of a Nov. 18 tragedy that shook the family of a state lawmaker.

Sen. Creigh Deeds was stabbed by his 24-year-old son, who later killed himself at the family’s home in Bath County. The events took place shortly after Deeds was released from an emergency custody order without receiving treatment.

The governor asked Secretary Bill Hazel to conduct a review of the incident and make recommendations.

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The recommendations come in addition to the governor’s recent budget proposal that would pump $38.3 million more into the mental health crisis and treatment system during the next two years.

Among the biggest changes is a state code amendment that would provide an option for extending the emergency custody order period beyond six hours, the current maximum for keeping a person in custody until they can be evaluated and, if needed, until a bed at a psychiatric hospital can be found.

McDonnell also proposed funding for the change.

Also in the recommendations is a study to assess the statewide need for secure assessment sites and subsequent establishment of the sites across the state.

Hazel also recommended completing the implementation of a psychiatric bed registry currently under development. The registry would reflect real-time data on available beds to shorten the process of finding a bed. He also recommended exploring other technology that would improve the process of finding resources in crisis situations.

As part of his review, Hazel looked at medical records for Deeds’ son and interviewed clinicians, hospital personnel and law enforcement personnel involved in the tragedy.

Among other recommendations are clarifying procedures and expectations for many different facets of the system and assuring continued efforts to increase service availability.