Health Law

Virginia state senator sues mental health agency and state over suicide and stabbing by his son

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A Virginia state senator has sued the state and a local mental health agency for the wrongful death by suicide of his son, the Washington Post reported Tuesday.

R. Creigh Deeds, a Democrat from Bath County, said his son Austin “Gus” Deeds was improperly denied treatment by the Rockbridge Area Community Services Board in 2013. The younger Deeds, 24, was released to his father because mental health workers couldn’t find a bed for him in the area’s psychiatric treatment facilities.

About 13 hours later, Gus Deeds attacked his father, stabbing him 13 times. He shot himself the same day. The elder Deeds was airlifted to a hospital.

The lawsuit says an employee of the community board, Michael Gentry, agreed that Gus Deeds should be hospitalized. Gentry had also allegedly heard from Gus Deeds’s mother, Pamela Miller Mayhew, that Gus Deeds would kill his father and himself if he weren’t hospitalized.

According to the complaint, Gentry claimed he had called 10 psychiatric facilities but none had space. In fact, the lawsuit said, phone records show he had only called seven, and that two of the remaining three did have space available. Gentry is named as a defendant.

The complaint also says the violence could have been avoided if mental health officials had implemented recommendations laid down by the state after the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings. One of those recommendations was to improve communication between community services boards and hospitals to ensure that dangerous people are not released prematurely.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch says the elder Deeds is an attorney who has served in the general assembly since 1992. He ran unsuccessfully for governor of Virginia in 2009. After his recovery from the stabbing, which left him with visible facial scars, he has led efforts to improve mental health care in the state.

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