Creigh Deeds’s Preventable Tragedy

by Mona Charen

Creigh Deeds, a Virginia state senator and former candidate for governor, was apparently assaulted by his disturbed son this morning. He was stabbed multiple times in the head and torso, and remains in the hospital. The son killed himself.

Early reports are suggesting that the elder Deeds requested that his son be placed in emergency psychiatric care, but the younger Deeds was released because there simply are not enough psychiatric beds in Virginia. This is a national problem. It’s separate from, but related to, the problem of mass shootings. We do not deal adequately with mental illness. Aren’t 40 years of denial enough?

Here is a statement from the Treatment Advocacy Center:

– Reports indicate that Gus Deeds, 24, was released from an emergency hold at a Virginia hospital yesterday because no psychiatric beds were available. Following his release he stabbed his father, Senator Creigh Deeds (D-Bath), in the head and torso before fatally shooting himself. 

While it remains unclear whether Gus Deeds suffered from a diagnosed mental illness, this tragedy appears to be yet another incident related to our failure as a nation to provide adequate treatment options for the most severely ill. Virginia only has 15% of the beds available necessary to meet the needs of its population, according to our study “No Room at the Inn: Trends and Consequences of Closing Public Psychiatric Hospitals.” 

This continuous emptying of state psychiatric hospitals for the past half century has reduced the number of public beds for acutely or chronically ill patients by more than 90% over the last half-century while the US population nearly doubled.  

Even though most individuals with serious mental illness are not dangerous, there is a correlation between lack of treatment for mental illness and certain violent crimes, including 10% of all homicides. Almost all these acts of violence are committed by individuals who are not being treated.

“The elimination of hospital beds for people who are psychotic or otherwise need help in a crisis is a driving force behind a long list of terrible consequences, including preventable violent acts,” said Doris A. Fuller, executive director of the Treatment Advocacy Center. 

“We will keep seeing tragedies like this until we provide sufficient inpatient beds to meet the needs of people in psychiatric crisis,” the executive continued. “If there had been a hospital bed available for Gus Deeds, he may be alive today, and his father would not be grievously wounded.”