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Creigh Deeds on mental health legislation: "We've got some hard work to do"

Va. State Sen. Deeds on need for changes to mental health system 05:23

Virginia State Sen. Creigh Deeds is leading a new effort to help the mentally ill and their families, after suffering a personal tragedy.

Last November 19, Deeds was slashed and stabbed repeatedly by his own son, Gus Deeds.

Gus Deeds then took his own life. He was 24 years old and had been struggling with mental illness. He and his father had been in an emergency room just hours before the attack, but didn’t get the help that they needed.

Watch Deeds' recent interview with Scott Pelley for "60 Minutes." 

Now, two months after the death of his son, Deeds is looking to change things with respect to the mentally ill in his state. Currently, the state has six hours to find a psychiatric bed for a patient. In the case of his son, a bed could not be found for Gus, so he was released. Deeds wants that period extended to 24 hours, and to institute the creation of a database so that a search across the entire state can be made for a bed.

Deeds said on "CBS This Morning": "Everybody is sympathetic. I've got unbelievable support from across the commonwealth, stories and support from around the country, and legislators are, at this point still talking the talk. Now, we've got some hard work to do. There's some powerful interest groups that are opposed to the legislation. The Sheriff's Association of Virginia, different law enforcement groups, the ACLU, they're coming up with all kinds of reasons why we can't have more time, but I'm confident that we're going to work through this and we're going to get the votes to get this done."

Asked about the likelihood for change so what happened to him will not happen again, Deeds said: "For too long we've been shoving...problems with respect to the mentally-ill under the table. We need to take a good long look at fundamental changes in our system of care."

Referring to the changes he's proposed, Deeds said, "You know, the six-hour period -- that's four hours with the possibility of a two-hour extension. It's the shortest in the country. Most states have a 24- to 72-hour period to make an initial evaluation. We need to get in line with everybody else.

"When…it's been determined that that person is in crisis and needs service, there should not be a possibility that they are streeted," Deeds continued. "That person should receive the treatment they need. It's absolutely essential. In my situation, you know, my son's gone. I can't fix that. I mean there's no fix that I can get, but I can hopefully do some work that's going to prevent future tragedies."

Turning to his own son, Deeds said his situation was compounded because "nothing really developed." 

"There was nothing that I noticed or his mother noticed until after he was 18 years old. In fact, he was 21," Deeds said. "So we struggled even getting basic information about his illness and about his care, even though we had to hospitalize him a couple of times before."

Deeds said there's a lack of information and communication about mental illnesses. 

"My concern is that because there's so much stigma attached, there's a lack of overall awareness," he said. "You know, there's an inequity in the way we treat people with mental illness.

"If you've got a heart attack, if you've got cancer, you're going to get treatment. There are protocols developed," he said. "But the mentally ill struggle in silence, often. And I'm afraid because it's a soft science, in lots of respects, people who are trained to provide the service to the mentally ill aren't always given the respect they need and the resources, and frankly, I'm not sure that the best students are going into the care for mentally ill. I think they're going to where the money is. Cardiology, surgery, you know."

He said, "It's -- it's difficult."

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