On Monday we heard from Bath County senator Creigh Deeds for the first time since a report on what happened with him, his son, and the public mental health system to prevent Gus Deeds from getting a needed bed for psychiatric care.
He shared intimate stories of Gus' life before he became ill, and discussed many factors of why mental illness continues to be ignored.
Senator Deeds was the guest speaker for lunch at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
Addressing a group of journalists, he didn't want to talk about what happened to his family in mid-November, but did want to share that his son was and will be his hero.
“He was reading simple books by age three and as he grew, he would take volumes of the encyclopedia to bed to read,” Deeds said. “He would amaze at church by reciting the Lord's Prayer and Apostle's Creed before school.”
Deeds ran through the legislation he helped get passed, namely to extend the amount of time a person can be held to find a bed and the commission of a four-year study by the legislature to find other issues.
“I believe the sadness my family endured and continues to endure could be prevented, but with the changes in the law, families with similar sets of circumstances will not suffer as mine did,” Deeds said.
But he implored we get mental illness on equal ground and reduce its stigma overall.
“As a society we treat mental illness so differently from other illnesses,” Deeds said. “Not only are we embarrassed by it, we act as if the brain and the nervous system are not parts of the body. If my son had cancer or heart disease, we would have known what to do and how to pay for it. With mental illness there is no assurance.”
He also made clear how he thinks families should be brought into the conversation of mental health treatment even after the age of 18, and proposed maybe some reform to the nation's HIPPA laws.
Deeds said he was satisfied with the detailed findings in the inspector general's special report on exactly what happened to prevent his son from getting a bed.
Senator Deeds made it known he will not let this issue be ignored any longer.
Senator Deeds said Monday in Washington, this is not the end of mental health reform. To him, it's just the beginning.