Senator Creigh Deeds sues Virgina

When Senator Creigh Deeds filed an intent to sue the Rockbridge Community Services Board in May of 2014, he was still trying to understand the treatment his son Gus had received just before his death by suicide. Since that time Deeds and investigators concluded there is significant cause, specifically “gross negligence” for a lawsuit, and they filed on November 19th of 2015. The 23 page document details the multiple ways in which the state’s mental health care system failed to provide the treatment Gus needed in a crisis. Michael Gentry, the emergency services worker who determined Gus should be hospitalized in November of 2013, but later reported he was unable to find a bed for him, is also named as a defendant in the suit. Both spokespersons from the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Rockbridge Area Community Services Board, the two other defendants in the case declined to comment at this time.

Flaws and gaps in the state’s mental health codes and procedures have been examined since the Virginia Tech shooting in 2008. In 20012 the Inspector General provided a review, which documents the “fragmented way in which people psychiatric emergencies are treated by the state hospitals, community service boards and local jails.”

Senator Deeds has worked tirelessly in the past year and a half to improve the broken system. New legislation has been passed to make it easier for mental health workers to find hospital space for patients, time periods for emergency custody orders and temporary detention orders have been expanded, and some state hospitals will expand capacity so they can be a “provider of last resort”.   Senator Deeds understands there is still a long way to go, and perhaps he sees the 6 million dollar lawsuit as another wake-up call to the state. His attorney, John Lichtenstein released a statement Tuesday in which Deeds stated, “ Virginia’s mental health care system failed my son Gus. I am committed that his needles death shall not be in vain, and that no other family in Virginia suffer this tragedy.”

With appreciation to the Roanoke Times for the information in this report.


Story By

Bonnie Ralston

Bonnie Ralston is the Assistant Station Coordinator at WVLS and a Highland County news reporter. She began volunteering at Allegheny Mountain Radio in the fall of 2005. In 2006 she became an AMR employee and worked in Bath County for eight years as the WCHG Station Coordinator and then as the news reporter there. She began working in radio while in college and has stayed connected to radio, in one way or another, for more than thirty years. She grew up in Staunton, Virginia, while spending a lot of time on her family’s farm in Deerfield, Virginia. She enjoys spending time outside, watching old TV shows and movies and tending to her chickens.

Current Weather