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Senator's Son Turned Away From Hospital Night Before Attack

Kaysie Ellingson |
November 20, 2013 | 2:32 p.m. PST

Executive Producer


'Gus' Deeds Facebook
'Gus' Deeds Facebook
With blood spilling from wounds to his head and neck, Virginia Senator Creigh Deeds made his way down his driveway early Tuesday morning. Despite the multiple stab wounds he sustained, Deeds is expected to live but unfortunately his son, 24-year-old Austin Deeds, who allegedly stabbed his father, did not. 

The young man who is believed to be the assailant in this case was found dead inside the house with a fatal gun wound. Could this tragedy have been avoided? As the information surrounding this attempted murder-suicide spills in, more and more people believe that it could have been. 

The night before the senator's attack and his son's alleged suicide, Austin Deeds, who went by 'Gus,' underwent an emergency psychiatric evaluation. Although the doctors determined that he should be admitted for inpatient treatment, he was released because no available bed could be found. 

READ ALSO: Mental Illness Hot Topic Among USC Students

According to the Washington Post, at least three hospitals within an hour's drive of where Deeds was evaluated say had they had beds available but had not been contacted Monday night. 

Mary Ann Bergeron, the executive director of the Virginia Association of Community Services Board, explained that the number of psychiatric wards have been reduced throughout local hospitals making it more difficult for people to find places accepting involuntary detention. 

This case highlights a major problem in both availability and communication in the nation's mental healthcare system. "These kinds of communications breakdowns can be life or death," said Ron Honberg, the policy director for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

According to a CBS report, Dr. Erik Roskes, a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and an expert in mental health issues, believes that "The fact that someone could be deemed in need of immediate care and be turned away for lack of a bed constitutes 'systemic malpractice.'" 

More specifically, Virginia's mental health system came under scrutiny in 2007 following the Virginia Tech shooting. The shooter in this case, Seung-Hui Cho, was deemed a danger to himself and others by a judge in 2005, however this determination was never put into the national background check system, which allowed him to purchase firearms legally. Also, despite the ordering, he reportedly never received treatment. 

Hornberg hopes that the Affordable Care Act, which mandates that insurers cover mental health care, will help to level the playing field for mental patients. And perhaps events such as the tragedy that struck the Deeds family on Tuesday can be avoided.

Reach Executive Producer Kaysie Ellingson here.  




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