- The Washington Times - Monday, January 27, 2014

Virginia state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds said Monday there’s “no fix” for his son who committed suicide last year after struggling with mental health issues, but he hopes to work to prevent similar tragedies in the future from occurring.

“For too long we’ve been shovin’ … problems with respect to the mentally ill under the table,” Mr. Deeds — his stab wounds still visible from where his son, Gus, attacked him — said on “CBS This Morning.” “We need to take a good long look at fundamental changes in our system of care.”

In November, Mr. Deeds had tried to get help for Gus, 24, but his son was discharged after a bed could not be found for him. Gus, who suffered from bipolar disorder, then attacked his father before taking his own life.

“I said, ‘Bud, what’s going on?’ I said, ‘Gus, I love you so much,’ ” Mr. Deeds said in an interview that aired Sunday on “60 Minutes.” “He had determined that I had to die, that I was an evil man, and that he had to execute me and then he’d go straight to heaven.”

Mr. Deeds, Bath Democrat, has introduced legislation in the state legislature this year to increase the amount of time a person can be held involuntarily under an emergency custody order, among other fixes; the maximum time in Virginia is currently six hours.

“Everybody’s sympathetic, and I’ve gotten unbelievable support from across the commonwealth,” Mr. Deeds said Monday.

Mr. Deeds said legislators are “talking the talk,” but some law enforcement groups and the ACLU have raised some concerns about holding people for a longer time period.

“They’re coming up with all kinds of reasons why we can’t have more time, but I’m confident that we’re going to work through this, and we’re going to get the votes to get this done,” he said.

He said the six-hour time period is the shortest in the country.

“We need to get in line with everybody else,” he said. “When it’s been determined that [a] person is in crisis and needs service, there should not be a possibility that they are streeted — that person should receive the treatment they need … is absolutely essential.”

“In my situation — my son’s gone; I can’t fix that,” he continued. “I mean, there’s no fix that I can get, but I can hopefully do some work that’s going to prevent some future tragedies.”

Mr. Deeds also said that he hadn’t really noticed any problems with Gus until he was an adult, which compounded the issue.

“So we struggled even getting basic information about his illness and about his care even though we had to hospitalize him a couple [of] times before,” he said. “There’s a lack of information, there’s a lack of communication and, frankly, my concern is that because there’s so much of a stigma attached to mental health, there’s a lack of overall awareness. There’s an inequity in the way we treat people with mental illness.”

“If you’ve got a heart attack, if you’ve got cancer, you’re going to get treatment — there are protocols developed,” he continued. “But the mentally ill struggle in silence often, and I’m afraid because it’s a soft science in lots of respects, people who are trained to provide the service to the mentally ill aren’t always given the respect they need, and the resources. And, frankly, I’m not sure that the best students are always going out to care for the mentally ill — I think they’re going where the money is. It’s cardiology, surgery, you know … it’s difficult.”

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