Sen. Deeds chairs state mental health panel - WFXG FOX 54 - News Now

Sen. Deeds chairs state mental health panel

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -

After making critical changes to Virginia's response to mental health care, a group of lawmakers insists there's still much more work to be done. Now seven delegates and five senators are beginning a long-term dialogue to improve gaps in the system.

This is a mission that's become personal for Sen. Creigh Deeds. Monday, he was very vocal about the loss of his son and what could have been done to get him the services he needed before there was a crisis.

"Circumstances. Lord knows I would do anything if we didn't have those circumstances but we have them. We have a chance to do something right. We have to look at our system from the bottom up," Deeds told the panel.

It's a comprehensive review. What is Virginia doing wrong? What are other states doing right and how can the Commonwealth get in line?

Still recovering from his own tragedy, Creeds is now chairing a new state panel for mental health reform.

"To build what I hope will be a model for the rest of the country," he said.

It comes after his son Gus stabbed him before killing himself after experts said Gus was denied a hospital bed for his mental illness.

"There's been opportunities missed in key places where we can do more," John Snook with the Treatment Advocacy Center said.

Snook said he wants to see more focus on early intervention, instead of waiting until a patient reaches his worst point.

"That's how you do it with any other medical illness. You say, ‘do they need treatment?' You don't wait until, ‘oh they're going to do so were going to finally do something'. You help them when they need it," Snook said.

Virginia has nine state-based hospitals for mental health patients. One is designated for children.

Del. Joseph Yost wants the state to make sure children are better served.

"Introducing a bill with some type of legislation that would require mental health screenings at the K-12 level, the same way you do vision screenings and hearing screenings," Yost said.

Earlier this year, the state began a new online registry identifying available hospital beds for mental health workers to access, but Deeds raised concerns that the registry may not be operating in real time. A state health commissioner says they're working on improving updates.

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