They’re back… Virginia lawmakers return to Richmond as General Assembly convenes

Posted at 8:00 AM, Jan 08, 2014
and last updated 2014-01-08 13:18:28-05

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - The Virginia General Assembly is set to convene its 2014 session Wednesday in Richmond.  [Click here to follow Joe St. George on Twitter for updates from the Capitol]

In addition to working on a state budget, lawmakers are expected to take on Virginia's mental health system. While it has been addressed in the past, this year lawmakers will work in the shadow of November's stabbing of Virginia Senator Creigh Deeds.

Deeds' son stabbed his father and later took his own life.

The stabbing came one day after Gus Deeds, 24,  was taken to a western Virginia hospital under an emergency custody order. He was released after a mental evaluation because officials believed there were no open psychiatric beds available in the region.

At least 25 bills dealing directly with Virginia's mental health system have been proposed so far this session.  Senator Deeds has sponsored several himself.

Many focus on the time a person can be held under emergency detention orders.  Multiple bills would require the Department of Behavioral Health and Development Services to keep an active count of the number of psychiatric beds available statewide.

"I think there are a lot of people on both the Democratic and Republican side of the aisle right now that are going to try and make sure what happened to Creigh Deeds' son, where he could not get a bed when he needed a bed in order to get some mental health treatment, doesn't happen again in Virginia," CBS 6 political analyst Dr. Bob Holsworth said.

Other topics expected to be addressed during this 60-day session include political ethics reform and Medicaid extensions.

On Saturday Democrats Terry McAuliffe,Ralph Northam and Mark Herring will take over of Virginia's governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general. The three Democrats replace out-going Republican leaders Governor Bob McDonnell, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.