Mental Health Crisis Response Likely Focus of 2014 GA

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RICHMOND, Va. (WVIR) - The 2014 General Assembly session will kick off in Richmond in exactly three weeks. At the University of Virginia Wednesday afternoon, Charlottesville-area lawmakers said one issue in particular is hitting very close to home.

It has been a month since the son of Virginia Senator Creigh Deeds attacked his father before taking his own life. The tragedy hit hard in the Charlottesville area, and now local lawmakers say it's time for action.

“There are people in our community who are unsafe to themselves or others, and what do we do?” said 58th District Delegate Rob Bell (R).

The question on the minds of many as lawmakers return to Richmond next month: how does Virginia respond when a mental health crisis hits so close to home? Fifty-seventh District Delegate Toscano (D) says Deeds will return to the legislature in 2014 and his colleagues are ready to take action.

“I'm optimistic that something will be done in the mental health area. The question: will it be enough?” Toscano said.

“The first step, I think, is going to be to identify what the problems are,” Bell said.

Backed by $38 million in mental health funding set aside by Governor Bob McDonnell, lawmakers will spend much of the coming session looking for practical solutions.

“Some of these things won't cost money, some of them will. And we need to make sure both are done if we're going to address this problem,” Toscano said.

And perhaps more than anywhere else, for Charlottesville-area lawmakers, it's personal.

Bell said, “Creigh was our colleague, Creigh is a friend, most of us knew his son. So I think this is a more personal sort of important to us.”

“He really appreciates all of the support he's been getting from the locality and from the state,” Toscano said.

Central to many of these discussions is the issue of bed capacity for people in the midst of a mental health crisis. Lawmakers will begin looking at ways to improve Virginia's mental health system when the legislature returns to Richmond January 8.
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