Deeds' Family Tragedy Highlights Egregious Example of Warped VA Budget Priorities

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The tragedy involving State Senator Creigh Deeds and his son Gus is horrible enough as it is. But then, we heard the infuriating news that Gus - who apparently had a history of struggling with  mental illness -  was "evaluated Monday at Bath Community Hospital" but "released because no psychiatric bed could be located across a wide area of western Virginia." And why was that the case? Here's Think Progress on that part of the story: ongoing trend of state governments slashing funds for mental health programs has greatly diminished the number of beds available to Americans with serious mental illnesses, including those who need emergency inpatient care."Many states appear to be effectively terminating a public psychiatric treatment system that has existed for nearly two centuries," wrote researchers in a 2012 report by the Treatment Advocacy Center (TAC), a nonprofit group that examines mental health issues. "The system was originally created to protect both the patients and the public, and its termination is taking place with little regard for the consequences to either group."
According to the report, Virginia eliminated 15 percent of its public psychiatric beds between 2005 and 2010. The state has just 17.6 such beds per 10,000 people - less than 40 percent of the recommended minimum 50 beds per 10,000 people.That didn't stop Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-VA) from proposing even more cuts to mental health programs in 2012.
There's a lot of blame for this sad state of affairs to go around, and it doesn't necessarily break down on pure partisan lines. Of course, the Great Recession that began in 2008 didn't help matters, nor did foolish "austerity" policies - largely pushed by Republicans and the Tea Party - at the federal and state levels. Among these cutbacks were those that gutted social services, including mental health funding. For instance, check out what happened here in Virginia after the Virginia Tech shootings, carried out by a severely mentally ill individual.