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Creigh Deeds renews mental health vow

Creigh Deeds renews mental health vow

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CHARLOTTESVILLE — State Sen. Creigh Deeds on Thursday renewed his bid for lasting reform of the mental health system that he says failed his son in November.

“We’re going to remake the system,” Deeds said. “We’re going to have a model for the rest of the country in Virginia for the provision of mental health care.”

What shape those changes might take, he said, is unclear, but legislation passed this session addressing issues that emerged in his son’s case are just the first steps.

This year’s bills were “simple,” Deeds said, but helped close gaps that put vulnerable Virginians at risk. The Bath County Democrat’s remarks drew applause from dozens of local mental health workers, emergency services providers and community members gathered at a town hall meeting sponsored by the Community Mental Health and Wellness Coalition.

The group of 15 nonprofits and representatives from both local hospitals formed in 2009 to begin the work Deeds pledged Thursday to carry forward: providing better care to more people without leaving anyone in need underserved.

“It was just five years ago that the conference room in the Charlottesville Free Clinic was filled to capacity as we discussed what to do about the increased demand and decreased resources for mental health services in our community,” said Erika Viccellio, a coalition member and executive director of the free clinic.

Viccellio praised Deeds for moving forward while healing from physical wounds and grieving the loss of his son, Austin “Gus” Deeds, 24, who stabbed his father 13 times before fatally shooting himself at the family’s Millboro home. Gus Deeds was released from an emergency custody order 13 hours earlier after the clinician tasked with finding him further court-ordered treatment failed to secure an appropriate psychiatric bed before time ran out.

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