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Bob McDonnell orders review of mental health system after attack on Creigh Deeds

- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 21, 2013

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell has directed his secretary of health and human resources to conduct a "comprehensive review" of the state's mental health system in the wake of Gus Deeds' apparent suicide this week and said he'll weigh providing additional resources in the outgoing two-year state budget proposal he'll unveil next month.

Mr. Deeds, 24, underwent a psychiatric evaluation Monday, was released, then attacked his father, state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds, Tuesday morning before dying of what police believe to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

"It's just a heartbreaking story," Mr. McDonnell said, adding the state senator is a "good, decent, honorable man."

Mr. McDonnell twice defeated Mr. Deeds in statewide elections, most recently in the 2009 governor's race. Mr. McDonnell also defeated the Bath County Democrat in the 2005 attorney general's race by slightly more than 300 votes.

"Creigh's a great dad — he obviously tried to do something for his son Monday, and the system didn't do the things to support him that we'd like to see," Mr. McDonnell said Thursday on MSNBC's "The Daily Rundown." "If there's new resources needed, we'll look at it. If there's more coordination and communication between state and local agencies, we'll do that. Our inspector general's also doing a review. So we'll get to the bottom of what could have gone better, but it's too early — the facts are still being gathered at this point. Right now, everybody is praying for Creigh to make a full recovery."

The tragedy has prompted an outpouring of support from people in Virginia and across the country.

"Dorothy and I are praying for Senator Creigh Deeds and his family in the wake of this awful tragedy," Gov.-Elect Terry McAuliffe said in a statement. "This is a truly sad day for Virginia and for the many people who know Creigh as the fine public servant and friend he is. We join people across the Commonwealth and country in wishing him a full recovery."

Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, a Republican defeated by Mr. McAuliffe, a Democrat, in the race earlier this month, also expressed condolences in a statement through his office.

"[T]he attorney general is deeply sorry for what the senator and his family are going through, including the unknown suffering of his now-deceased son," spokesman Brian Gottstein said in an email. "Attorney General Cuccinelli has long been an advocate of devoting more resources to help improve Virginia's mental health system, so those suffering from mental illness and their families can live happier and more productive lives, with reduced chances of suicide or other violence."

At the Virginia Senate Finance Committee's annual retreat, held this year in Williamsburg, Sen. Walter A. Stosch, Henrico Republican, led with a moment of silence.

Virginia provides behavioral health services through more than three dozen state-local community service boards, a behavioral health administrator, and eight state-operated behavioral health facilities.

In fiscal 2011, the combination of providers served almost 115,000 people with behavioral health issues. According to the VACSB, the state's community services boards also support more than 42,000 people with severe mental illness.

"Every year, some 4,500 people will be 'competing' for fewer than 1,500 beds in state-operated facilities," according to a July 2012 presentation by G. Douglas Bevelacqua, associate inspector general for behavioral health and developmental services.

As Mr. McDonnell alluded to, the new Office of the State Inspector General is investigating the circumstances by which the younger Mr. Deeds underwent a psychiatric evaluation Monday but was released after a bed couldn't be found for him.

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