Virginia officials are speeding implementation of an online psychiatric bed registry following an attack on state Sen. Creigh Deeds by his son.
The registry will list psychiatric beds at state and private hospitals, along with crisis units run by local community services boards. It's expected to go live March 1.
The state hired Virginia Health Information in 2009 to develop and implement the registry. But the project has been delayed by budget and staffing cuts, and events such as the U.S. Department of Justice investigation of Virginia's training centers for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.
Work to implement the registry was underway before Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath County, was stabbed by his son on Nov. 19 at their home in Millboro, said John J. Pezzoli, assistant commissioner for the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services.
"Clearly, since then, we've just kept our foot on the pedal and we're going forward,'' Pezzoli told the newspaper.
Deeds son' Austin C. "Gus'' Deeds, killed himself after attacking his father. The attack came hours after the son was released from an emergency custody order because no psychiatric bed could be found for him.
"The whole point is to save the folks at the (community services boards) time when they're trying to place a person in a bed that might be available,'' Michael T. Lundberg, executive director of Virginia Health Information, told the newspaper.
Development of the registry has been marked by "stops and starts,'' but the implementation began in earnest "a couple of weeks ago'' with a meeting between VHI and state behavioral health officials, Lundberg said.
Members of the legislature's Joint Commission on Health Care said they were not aware until recently that the registry project had stalled. In June 2012, Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services Commissioner James W. III had told a subcommittee of the commission that the software to run the register was completed.
"I would like to know why it took so long to get it accomplished,'' Del. John M. O'Bannon III, R-Henrico, the commission's vice chairman, told the newspaper.
Sen. George L. Barker, D-Fairfax, said he had assumed until recently that the registry was operating.
"They just didn't have the staff to get it implemented with all the other things they needed to do,'' Barker told the newspaper.
Pezzoli said the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services's central office lost a third of its staff to budget cuts in 2008 and 2009.
The registry "simply wasn't the highest priority with the shortage and other demands,'' he said.
The registry has limitations, including how often hospitals will be able to update bed availability based on factors such as gender, age, medical condition and psychiatric diagnosis.
Emergency workers still will have to call hospitals to determine whether a bed is indeed available and whether the facility will accept the person requiring detention and treatment.
"A psychiatric bed registry is a very good idea,'' said Mary Ann Bergeron, executive director of the Virginia Association of Community Services Boards. "If people think it is the answer, they are incorrect.''
Sen. Stephen H. Martin, R-Chesterfield, a member of the joint commission who has long advocated a registry, said "a thorough and complete and regularly updated bed registry . would be a very good thing to have.''