Satisfied with report on son’s death, Deeds presses for mental health reform

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Virginia state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds vowed Monday to press forward on the issue of mental health reform after an investigator probing the suicide of his son resigned and accused state officials of interfering with his work.

Mr. Deeds said Monday he’s satisfied that the facts about the incident are “all out there.” The comments were the first time he’s spoken publicly about the report since state investigator G. Douglas Bevelacqua wrote last month that he felt he could no longer be an authentic, independent “voice of accountability” for the state on behavioral health issues.

The recently released report from the Office of the State Inspector General found no evidence that a local official contacted 10 facilities in pursuit of a bed for Austin C. “Gus” Deeds, as the official claimed, after the younger Deeds was released from a local service center last November.

Investigators said they confirmed that a local Community Services Board evaluator contacted seven of the 10 facilities, but that two of the three outstanding ones the evaluator claimed to have reached out to actually did have bed space available.

Gus Deeds, who had been suffering from bipolar disorder, was evaluated under an emergency custody order and released on Nov. 18 after no bed could be found for him. The next morning, he attacked his father with a knife before fatally shooting himself.

“To be clear: I’m not saying that my situation occurred because of flaws in the law,” Mr. Deeds said Monday at a National Press Club luncheon. “I don’t believe that for a minute. I believe that the sadness my family went through last November and continues to could be prevented.”

The Bath Democrat also said Monday that the final inspector general report was consistent with a Virginia State Police investigation into the incident.

“I think Mr. Bevelacqua probably would have taken it a step further, but I don’t know that the inspector general’s findings are inconsistent with the state police report,” Mr. Deeds said. “I think it’s all out there.”

In a resignation letter to Gov. Terry McAuliffe dated March 1, Mr. Bevelacqua wrote that revisions to the report would hamper its usefulness.

The state’s current inspector general, Michael Morehart, has said the changes were largely cosmetic — a sentiment Mr. Deeds also relayed Monday.

“I think Mr. Bevelacqua’s comments put an exclamation mark to the inspector general’s report, and makes clear that we’ve got big problems in our mental health system,” he said.

With fixes passed by the legislature this year, Mr. Deeds continued, “we’ve ensured that in the future, families with similar sets of circumstances will not suffer as mine did.”

Among other changes, the legislature passed bills this year to effectively extend the amount of time a person can be held under an emergency custody order from six hours to 12 hours, and the time limit for an involuntary temporary detention order, which had been secured for Gus Deeds, from 48 hours to 72 hours.

“We have an opportunity now in Virginia to lead, and I hope we’re going to,” Mr. Deeds said.

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