Creigh Deeds Blames Shortage Of Mental Health Services For His Son’s Apparent Suicide

CREDIT: AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Former VA gubernatorial candidate and current state Sen. Creigh Deeds (D), right, hugs his late son, Gus, on the campaign trail in 2009

Former Democratic gubernatorial candidate and current Virginia state Sen. Creigh Deeds (D) is pinning the blame for his late son Gus’s apparent suicide on the Rockbridge-area Community Services Board (CSB), according to correspondence obtained by the Washington Post. CSB failed to find the Gus Deeds a psychiatric bed the night before the tragedy. Sen. Deeds was recently released from the hospital after recovering from stab wounds allegedly inflicted by his late son during the same violent incident.

“I cry a lot. I can’t focus now and talk to anyone,” wrote Deeds in an email exchange with the local publication Recorder. “I have very strong opinions about the CSB, and feel like they are responsible. My life’s work now is to make sure other families don’t have to go through what we are living.”

The Rockbridge CSB performed a psychiatric exam on Gus Deeds under an emergency custody order over the weekend of November 16. The mental health group then tried and failed to find a hospital with enough beds to take Deeds in for the night. The 24-year-old was sent home instead — but just two days later, multiple regional hospitals said they had enough room for Deeds last Monday evening and that the CSB had never contacted them.

Deeds, who has long been committed to mental health care issues, says that the country must change its approach to delivering mental health services — particularly in isolated and rural regions where it may not be easy to get help to people who need it. Over 85 percent of areas that the federal government classifies as “mental health professional shortage areas” are in rural communities, according to a 2009 report by the Center for Rural Affairs.

“Bath and Highland [counties] are the end of the line,” wrote Deeds in an email. “It seems inconvenient for those people to provide services here. I have heard from people in Rockbridge about lack of services, too, so I think there may be a bigger problem here. I am alive for a reason, and I will work for change. I owe that to my precious son.”

As ThinkProgress has previously noted, Virginia lawmakers from both parties have been slashing funding for mental health beds for years. During a call-in radio show on Tuesday, Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-VA) suggested that his administration plans to address mental health care issues soon. “Some action is needed and we will take some decisive action in the coming weeks,” said McDonnell.