Virginia Senator stabbing highlights mental health system deficiencies

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Virginia State Senator Creigh Deeds is recovering today from stab wounds inflicted yesterday, apparently by his son Gus, who died shortly afterwards when he committed suicide by shooting himself.

The tragedy is compounded by reports that 24-year-old Gus Deeds was brought in for an emergency mental health evaluation only one day earlier, but was released because there were no psychiatric beds available for him in Western Virginia.

The problem is widespread enough that there’s a name for it: “streeting.” It means releasing at-risk psychiatric patients because there’s nowhere to give them the treatment they need.

Here & Now’s Robin Young speaks with Mira Signer, executive director of the Virginia branch of the National Alliance for Mental Illness — one of Virginia’s largest mental health advocacy groups — to discuss the issues facing patients and providers in Virginia.

“Unfortunately, it’s a fairly familiar situation to a lot of people and a lot of families in Virginia who have dealt firsthand with something similar to this,” Signer says. “Between April of 2010 and March of 2011, about 200 people who actually met the criteria for a temporary detention order — that dictates, basically, when someone should be held against his or her will — folks were released from custody because there were no beds.”

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  1. Timothy Pearson's avatar
    Timothy Pearson
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    For what it is worth, the legacy of releasing the mentally ill onto the streets of America began back in the 1990s. Since then the problems with this practice have only escalated with little relief for those who are suffering from mental illness. Today, as even the most stable people in the American culture begin to feel the financial and emotional strains being caused by the political battles going on in Washington D.C., unfortunately, I believe that those who are suffering from mental illness may become more unstable as they have been using those who are the most stable to have as their anchor, if this makes sense. The mentally ill are more vulnerable in my opinion to the stressors around them, thus when they feel that their "rock" is shifting (our culture's stable individuals)their inability to manage their emotions under the best of circumstances becomes increasingly unstable. Bottom line, is that we need to become vigilant about those who we know are suffering from mental illness and become proactive in our approach to protect them even with restricted resources...
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