WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- He's a man who now wears the scars on his face from a personal tragedy still too painful to discuss. But Senator Creigh Deeds has become a powerful symbol, uniting support for mental health reform in Virginia.
Two months ago, Deeds was attacked by his mentally ill son Austin, who then killed himself. Austin had been released after an emergency custody order expired before a bed in a psychiatric hospital could be found.
Deeds has submitted a bill that would lengthen the Emergency Custody Order time limit from 6 to 24 hours. Delegate Dave Albo (R-Springfield), who supports the change, presided over the last reform efforts after the Virginia Tech shootings.
"Very controversial. I'm all for the wait time (change), but, when the hearing start, you will see a parade of people coming in who say, 'I have a mental health problem, I am not a criminal. Doing this is basically putting me in prison and I've never committed a crime,'" said Albo.
Tom Schuplin, The Director of the Recovery academy at Mental Health provider PRS says allowing police to hold someone against their will for up to 24 hours is only necessary when a bed cannot be found locally.
"If the individual is truly in need of hospitalization, and a TDO (temporary detention order) is needed, than I think it's important that the CSBs (Community Service Boards) get the extra time needed to be able to do that as opposed to released an individual who is either a danger to himself or others," said Schuplin.
Another bill Deeds has submitted directly related to his son's treatment would mandate an online database so a bed in a psychiatric unit can be found more quickly.
Delegate David Bulova (D-Fairfax), says he and many lawmakers were surprised that an online registry was not already up and running. "It will be very soon, now," said Bulova.
Schuplin hopes that the real change will come and said, "Out of this tragedy, something good will come from it, especially those with mental illness."