By COLEMAN HOPKINS
Virginia State Sen. Creigh Deeds after nearly being killed by his mentally unstable son last year (who ultimately took his own life), made a push to revamp and reform the commonwealth’s mental health policies. On Monday Feb. 10, the State Senate passed Deeds’ bill that extends emergency custody of mentally ill patients form six to 24 hours. This will allow more time for mental health workers to find psychiatric beds and treatment for individuals in crisis situations according to the Roanoke Times.
This is a monumental step forward on the daunting and pervasive struggle toward addressing mental illness in the U.S., and for Deeds to address it gives the movement a dedicated and genuine face.
The past few years bore witness to a handful of high-profile attacks on people, specifically large groups of people, by mentally ill individuals who lacked treatment over the course of several years, or their entire lifetimes.
While many politicians have called for a curb on gun sales and availability, few have acknowledged the other end of the issue, the person pulling the trigger.
Typically, it is either an inability to gain access to proper treatment or a sudden, unprovoked outburst that sets in motion the violence.
Deeds’ son, for example, was refused access to psychiatric beds on the grounds that they were full.
Now, this is where the trouble starts, at the provider, which, in turn, goes back to funding, and subsequently the amount of time and money that the government is willing to put forth.
All too often, however, the government does not do enough in this area. Consider each party’s big solution: Democrats say no guns, Republicans say guns.
Those are two of the most dumbed down and impossible solutions imaginable; they are unrealistic given basic logic: the second amendment comes to play too strongly when it comes to restriction, while the idea of having more guns would make less violence is also asinine. Moreover, these two methods are cheap; these “solutions” will cost very little.
Essentially they are looking at the easy, basic portion of the problem, the object, instead of the individual. What our elected officials are doing is pushing forth useless, simple and partisan “answers” to serious problems, knowing full well that they will fail.
According to the Washington Post, “The Deeds bill would create an online registry of available beds, extend the emergency custody order to 24 hours and require a state facility to accept a patient if no bed was found within eight hours.” Right of the bat, it is obvious that it is going to cost money to change up the facilities.
However, a case can be made for the expansion: Deeds’ son was only given six hours; the incident occurred less than eight hours later.
With that being considered, Deeds made a clear and articulate, remark on the state of programs aimed at helping the mentally ill.
““This bill before you is just the tip of the iceberg,” he said. “Our treatment of the mentally ill. . . is just desperately broken, not just here in Virginia but across the country.”
Deeds is keenly aware of the large-scale issue of mental illness and of its ubiquitous nature.
He is making an enormously positive influence on state politics, which, if he succeeds, could in turn influence national legislative movements by thinking outside the box and going for real reform, not simplistic partisan answers to massive real life problems. Deeds’ effort, and the reaction it will be met with, will show if citizens and politicians alike, or even a nation, are ready to set aside partisan politics in an effort to try to reach out to those mentally sick individuals who need.