HOLMBERG: State will investigate the release of Gus Deeds prior to stabbing, suicide

Posted at 12:04 AM, Nov 21, 2013
and last updated 2013-11-21 00:11:51-05

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) -- The inspector general of the state Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services tells us there will be a thorough investigation into the circumstances leading up to the reported release of 24-year-old Gus Deeds the day before he apparently critically stabbed his father and then shot himself to death.

Published reports indicate Gus was released Monday when a mental health worker couldn’t find a treatment space for him after he was picked up on an emergency custody order and an evaluation found him to be a danger to himself or others.

This is a carefully monitored system in Virginia because of previous mental health failures such as the Virginia Tech shooting and numerous other homicides and suicides committed by those who had been identified as unstable.

A 2012 report by that inspector’s general office indicates just how carefully these cases are weighed.

Each year about 20,000 Virginians are temporarily committed on an emergency basis.

The study looked at the last quarter of 2011, when just over 4,100 temporary detaining orders were issued for unstable people who were picked up.

Of the 72 people who didn’t get access to inpatient treatment, case workers in roughly half of those cases didn’t thoroughly investigate treatment options at the state’s behavioral health facilities, according to the study.

The Washington Post has reported that there were mental health beds available in that region at the time of Gus Deed’s release.

The study also found that that the vast majority of the breakdowns occurred in the southwestern and southeastern districts of Virginia, where state-run mental hospital facilities are overtaxed. This case occurred in the northwestern district.

The report issued recommendations and examinations of other bedrock problems facing the state’s mental health system.

[BONUS: Click here to read the report here]

Also, you can read a detailed Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission report on the bigger problem of availability and cost of psychiatric care in Virginia.

That report shows far more mentally ill people in Virginia are being “served” in prisons and jails rather than in state or private mental facilities combined.

Make no mistake: this apparent lapse will be thoroughly investigated, and not just because it involves an admired state senator.

Was there a request for an extension for extra time to find a bed? If not, why not? During the report’s study period, 273 patients were kept even beyond the legal 6-hour limit in order to find placement.

The evaluator could’ve asked the magistrate for a temporary detention order even without a bed to place Gus. That would’ve given them plenty of time to find placement. Did that happen?

We contacted some mental health of law enforcement sources familiar with these procedures. Gus Deed’s release just doesn’t add up.

If you have any questions about Emergency Custody Orders and Temporary Detention Orders, click here for an excellent explainer on the emergency committal process.