Mental Health Funding Impacts Hospital Access

Officials with the Rockbridge Area Community Services have confirmed that Gus Deeds received a mental health evaluation before the altercation with his father, Sen. Creigh Deeds, but was sent home after they were unable to find a hospital to take him in.

While police have not released what lead to the Emergency Custody Order, Buzz Barnett, Emergency Services Director at Region Ten says the protocol is the same across the commonwealth.

"They are a danger to themselves or others dues to mental illness. They are unable to care for themselves due to mental illness, and they are unwilling to get help voluntarily," Barnett said.

Once the individual is taken into police custody, they can be held for up to four hours while they are evaluated. Health Care providers can sometimes receive a maximum extension of two hours while they look for a hospital to take the patient in. Barnett says trying to find a bed can be especially challenging.

"There are times, and this happens every month, we have to search for beds across the state of Virginia," said Barnett.

The Washington Post reports that at least three hospitals near Bath County had beds available while 24-year-old Gus Deeds was in Emergency Custody. It remains unclear which hospitals were called and why Deeds was not taken to one of the facilities with beds.

"When someone is having a psychiatric crisis they need the bed right then and there," Barnett said.

According to Barnett the shortage of beds touches upon a larger issue for mental health funding. He says over the years the funds have diminished, creating a lack of available resources.

"The funding has been pretty flat," said Barnett. "After Virginia Tech there was some new money that came in for emergency services, but a couple years after that the recession hit and the community service boards lost all that money."

He added that because the numbers of beds needed in a psychiatric unit is so hard to predict, many hospitals lose money of them. For that reason, some private hospitals are reluctant to have large facilities or even open units at all.

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