Deeds says the behavioral health plan is a positive step, but more needs to be done

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WDBJ) – Bath County Senator Creigh Deeds says Gov. Youngkin’s plan to improve Virginia’s behavioral health system would be a positive step forward.

But he also says Virginia needs to do more and make a sustained effort to get where we need to be.

Deeds is the chair of the Virginia Behavioral Health Commission. Improving mental health care was a key focus of his work in the General Assembly.

In 2013, his son Gus experienced a mental health crisis when he wounded Sen. Deeds and then took his own life.

“Sen. Creigh Deeds used his own tragic personal experience to save the lives of so many others. This is selfless work,” Gov. Youngkin said Wednesday as he announced his plan to transform Virginia’s behavioral health system.

He said he hopes to build on the bipartisan efforts of the past 15 years.

Deeds told us the governor called him last Saturday to discuss his plans and said he appreciated Youngkin’s involvement in the matter.

“We need the governor to be committed and he is,” Deeds said in an interview Friday morning. “It means a lot to me. It means a lot to Virginia. But frankly, we just have to do more. We have to do more, and we have to do it faster. Lives are at stake.”

Deeds said he supports the governor’s plan to adopt a crisis model that has worked in Arizona and increase the number of mobile crisis units and reception centers.

“That’s the part of his proposal that can get citizen services faster, that can get deputy sheriffs and police officers out of the emergency rooms and back onto the streets,” Deeds said. “It will give people quicker access to services, so there will be less pressure on hospitals. So this can be a win, win, win for all of us.”

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What Deeds needs more attention for is behavioral health staff, particularly on the community services boards that help Virginians access mental health care in their own communities and in state and private facilities.

“The CSBs play a vital role in our overall system and as I said, we have a 28% vacancy rate at the CSBs nationwide. Whole programs have been shut down because we don’t have the staff, so we have to take care of that,” he said.

Deeds said that truly repairing Virginia’s behavioral health system would require a sustained investment over a period of years.

He said the governor’s plan is a step in that direction.

We need to take that step, Deeds told us, and then do two or three times as much.

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