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Virginia's top mental health official dies

Virginia's top mental health official dies


Virginia’s top mental health official died Friday from injuries he suffered during a wreck Wednesday that killed another woman.

Gov. Ralph Northam issued a statement following the death of Dr. Hughes Melton, was commissioner of the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services.

Northam said he and his wife, Pam, were deeply saddened by Melton’s death, and extend their thoughts and prayers to his wife, daughters, and family and friends, and to the family of Hailey Green, a young woman from Staunton who died in the collision.

“Dr. Melton was a fellow veteran and physician. In 2018, I appointed Dr. Melton to serve Virginia as our DBHDS commissioner, a role he filled ably and with enthusiasm. His public service also included his previous appointment as Deputy Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Health, as well as service on a number of boards and groups devoted to improving the medical profession, health policy, and addiction treatment. Dr. Melton for many years made his home in Southwest Virginia, where he built a well-respected career as a family physician and addiction expert.

“Not only was Dr. Melton a devoted public servant and physician, I considered him a friend.

“Our thoughts are with all who knew and loved both Hughes Melton and Hailey Green.”

Melton was driving a 2018 Hyundai Tucson that bumped a car in front of him on Virginia 254 and then pulled into a passing lane, where state police said it collided head-on with a 2003 Toyota Solara driven by Green.

Green was pronounced dead at the scene and Melton was taken to the University of Virginia.

Melton was leading a department in the midst of transforming mental health care by building uniform community services.

Northam appointed Melton to his post almost 16 months ago, as Virginia grappled with changes to its troubled mental health system.

Melton previously had served as chief deputy commissioner in the Virginia Department of Health, after a career as a family practitioner and addiction expert in Southwest Virginia.

He is a former Army doctor who won a national award as “family practitioner of the year” in 2011 for his practice in Lebanon, the seat of Russell County.

Before the crash, Melton had been in Harrisonburg for the annual meeting of The Arc of Virginia, a state advocacy group for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, state officials confirmed.

Efforts to reach the family of Hailey Green were unsuccessful Friday.

Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said information provided by doctors at the UVa Medical Center where Melton was treated suggests he “may have suffered a medical emergency, which is being investigated as a factor in the crash.”

It remains unclear what may have afflicted Melton immediately before the crash.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch contributed to this report.

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