April 28, 2014
State Sen. Creigh Deeds joined Gov. Terry McAuliffe Monday at the University of Virginia Medical Center, where the governor ceremonially signed mental health legislation into law.
"There are no excuses anymore," McAuliffe said.
The signing comes nearly six months after Deeds survived an attack by his mentally ill son, Gus. The 24-year-old died by suicide after stabbing his father.
"I'm pleased that we got this far," Deeds said. "It was significant but it was also modest. It just addressed one set of issues."
The law requires any state agency to accept a patient on a temporary emergency custody order. It also extends the length of an ECO from four hours to eight, and it establishes a statewide psychiatric bed registry.
"We're going to make it more responsive. We're going to make it more efficient," Deeds said. "It might cost more money. I expect it will. But we're going to start out with a fresh sheet of paper, and we're going to make this thing work."
While the governor acknowledges that the bill signing is significant, he also says it's only the beginning and that there's still more work to be done.
"I'm not going to wait. If there are things we need to do immediately, I will use the powers that I have as governor," McAuliffe said. "My job is to make sure the citizens in the commonwealth are safe and we'll provide them the necessary resources to do what we have to do. And I will do that."
The bill signing comes as the General Assembly continues to debate a state budget. The governor says if legislators can close the Medicaid coverage gap, more money can be devoted to further mental health reforms.
"That's $588 million that we could provide health care for up to 400,000 Virginians, create thousands of new jobs, but it can help us do what we need to do to make sure our community service boards have the funding that they need," McAuliffe said.
Deeds remained silent during the bill signing itself, as he sat next to his daughter, Rebecca. He spoke to the Newsplex after the event.
"We still have a lot of work to do," he said. "I expect over the next four years between the work on the governor's task force and the work of our study commission, we're going to remake the system of mental health care."