Virginia state Sen. Creigh Deeds, whose son stabbed the lawmaker multiple times before ultimately taking his own life a week ago, says he believes area mental health services bear some responsibility for the tragic episode.
Deeds’ son, Austin, 24, was reportedly discharged from a rural hospital in Virginia after a mental health evaluation a day before the incident, apparently because there were no open psychiatric beds in the area. Three hospitals within a two-hour drive from Bath County, Va. have since said they had room for Austin Deeds but were never contacted.
Creigh Deeds told The Recorder newspaper that the Rockbridge Area Community Services Board – which is in charge of mental-health services in his district—is at fault.
“I cry a lot. I can’t focus now and talk to anyone … 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,” he said in the interview. Requests for comment from officials at Rockbridge Area Community Services were not immediately returned.
Deeds – who was stabbed in the chest and face –was released from the UVA Medical Center on Friday and is recuperating at home.
According to the American Hospital Association, the number of psychiatric beds is on the decline as hospitals are affected by budget constraints and are institutionalizing patients less and less. The number of hospital beds in freestanding psychiatric hospitals dipped 13% between 2002 and 2011.
Deeds, a Democrat, vowed to fight for changes within local mental health services. “I am alive for a reason, and I will work for change,” Deeds told the newspaper. “I owe that to my precious son.”