Virginia Lawmaker Settles Suit; Seeks Mental-Health Reform

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What to Know

  • Creigh Deeds, whose son stabbed him before killing himself, has settled a lawsuit over the young man's mental-health care.
  • Deeds has pushed for a law requiring mental-health patients to be transported to a state hospital if space isn't found in other facilities.

A Virginia lawmaker whose son stabbed him before killing himself in 2013 has settled a lawsuit over the young man's mental-health care. 

The Roanoke Times reports that Sen. R. Creigh Deeds and his family will be paid $950,000 by the state's risk-management fund to settle their suit against Michael Gentry, a former mental-health evaluator with the Rockbridge Area Community Services Board. 

Deeds alleged in the suit that his 24-year-old son, Gus Deeds, was improperly denied treatment. The suit said that while Gentry determined Gus could be a danger to himself or others, he failed to find a space for him in a mental-health facility within six hours. After that time, the younger Deeds was free to leave. He returned to his father's farm in Bath County, Virginia, Nov. 19, 2013, and stabbed him, then fatally shot himself. 

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"My son is dead," Creigh Deeds said in a statement Tuesday. "No amount of money can make that right, bring him back or fill the hole in my heart. Since my son's death, this lawsuit, and much of my work as a legislator, has been about ensuring that people who struggle as he did, are less likely to wind up as he did, and more likely to receive the care they need."

Among the reforms Deeds has pushed for since his son's death is a law requiring mental-health patients to be transported to a state hospital if space isn't found in a public or private facility. The state has also created a real-time psychiatric bed registry to help mental-health workers find spaces in their region. The Virginia Department of Behavioral Health also has committed to holding annual seminars to help mental-health workers.

The department and local board were originally named in the suit, but Deeds dropped the department from the suit and a judge ruled the local board was protected under sovereign immunity. 

"It has been our goal that this case, in conjunction with the remarkable legislative work Senator Deeds continues to pursue, would result not only in this recovery, but be a catalyst for positive change in crisis mental health services in the Commonwealth," Deeds' Attorney John Lichtenstein said in a statement. 

"This lawsuit was a constructive element toward that end and toward the goal that Virginia families who struggle with mental illness will receive the care they so desperately need."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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