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Gov. McAuliffe Signs Mental Health Reform Bill at UVA Med Center - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Gov. McAuliffe Signs Mental Health Reform Bill at UVA Med Center

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Senator Deeds and Governor McAuliffe Senator Deeds and Governor McAuliffe

Governor Terry McAuliffe signed a mental health bill with Senator Creigh Deeds by his side Monday in Charlottesville. It's a bill that's the first step in what will be a long process.

The new laws will create a real-time psychiatric bed registry and extend the current emergency custody window from six to 12 hours, with guaranteed treatment at a state facility within eight hours.

Senator Deeds, his daughter Rebecca and other legislators stood by McAuliffe when he signed the bill Monday at the University of Virginia Medical Center. Both McAuliffe and Deeds say this bill is a huge step, one that leaves no room for excuses.

Gov. McAuliffe stated, "I appreciate all the work that Senator Deeds has done on this very, very, very important piece of legislation. It was done in a bipartisan way. We are beginning to begin comprehensive reform, things that we should have done a long time ago in Virginia."

This comes just five months after Deeds' son Gus attacked him and took his own life in the midst of a mental health crisis.

Deeds says this is all about remaking the system of public mental health care. He says this new legislation is just the first step in a long process but it will no longer allow people to fall through the cracks. "We had to get there. But now we have to go a lot further. We've got to remake the system of public mental health care."

While this may be a start, Deeds says there is a bigger issue to tackle: "people are ashamed of mental health issues. They're ashamed, they're embarrassed and lots of times you think it'll just go away."

He wants to ensure mental health issues are treated like any other illness. "If you show up at an emergency room in cardiac arrest the hospital is not going to turn you away because they don't have a gurney,” he stated. “Well our system has been doing that. Not often but it's been doing that for people that are in crisis situations with mental health."

Deeds says he intends to lead this reform on mental health care and will work closely with the task force to try to fix the system over the next few years.

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