State Senator Creigh Deeds says the mental health reforms approved by the General Assembly represent "a huge step toward protecting people's lives."

Deeds spoke with reporters on Saturday after the General Assembly acted on a package of reforms. The changes were spurred by the tragic events involving Deeds and his son last November in Bath County.

"It happened to me and I'm a state senator, so it gets a little press," Deeds said. "But I heard from so many people, all over Virginia and really all over the country that have been through the very same situation, where people are killed or people are hurt, and it goes on. And I think with this legislation, we've made a huge step toward protecting people's lives and reducing the number of tragedies that occur."

The legislation calls for a real-time, online database of available psychiatric beds, requires the state to provide a "bed of last resort" when private facilities are unable to accept a patient and it orders a four-year study of Virginia' s mental health system.

Lawmakers also voted to extend the amount of time someone experiencing a psychiatric crisis can be held on an emergency custody order. The compromise was 12 hours, less than the 24 Deeds had proposed, but the Senator said change approved Saturday will save lives.