WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- Virginia Senator Creigh Deeds was in Washington at the National Press Club on Monday speaking about the need for mental health reform and the need to erase the stigma of mental illness. Deeds has become a advocate after his son's suicide last fall, and he has lead the way in the first step of changes in the Virginia law.
"In every sense of the word, my son was my hero," said Deeds, describing a brilliant, musically talented and loving son. He said neither he nor his former wife, Gus's mother, wanted to accept the fact that their son had a mental illness.
He talked about the inability as a parent of an adult child with mental illness, to have access to his medical records or doctors. He said they lacked understanding of what was needed from the start. "Friends and family assured us he'd grow out of it..." Deeds explained.
Last November, 24-year-old Gus Deeds stabbed his father and then shot himself hours after being released from an emergency custody order when a psychiatric bed could not be found within the six hour time limit.
This past legislative session, Deeds sponsored what is now law that expands the ECO time limit to 8 hours, mandates a system-wide psychiatric bed registry and rules out the practice of "streeting."
The term "streeting" was used by Doug Bevelacqua who wrote the inspector general report on the system failures with Gus Deeds. He wrote that the Department of Behavioral and Developmental Services could have prevented the tragedy had it implemented his recommendations from a 2012 report.
"This was preventable," said Bevelacqua.
Deeds plans to keep fighting for reforms, calling this year's changes "incremental."
Understanding the impact he has and will have, he said, "My scars aren't going away..."
Deeds says he's a private man and doesn't like to talk about his personal life, but he realized he had the power to change things in the state. He says he's focused on doing more.
He's most encouraged about a four-year study commission lawmakers have approved which will look at the entire system and provide recommendations next year and in 2017.
Written by Peggy Fox