Reforming Mental Healthcare in the Commonwealth: A RadioIQ News' Series

After the death of Senator Creigh Deeds' son, who was mentally ill, Virginia lawmakers vowed to reform the system of care that had failed him.  It's been just over three years, and a special commission chaired by Deeds is preparing for the next legislative session with proposals for change. In an in-depth series, RadioIQ News takes a look at mental health reform throughout the state -- from training police for the front lines, to new systems of peer-led recovery .

This week, a commission established to improve mental health care in Virginia met in Richmond to discuss plans for next month’s legislative session. They’ve vowed to reform the system, but the state budget is tight, and many things they’d like to do will cost more money.  One approach, however, costs very little, and participants say it saved their lives.  Sandy Hausman has details on how peer support works.

Prison, or Treatment, for the Mentally Ill?

Dec 7, 2016
Pete Earley

Virginia has nine mental hospitals caring for about 1,400, but an estimated 13,000 people with serious mental illness are locked up in Virginia prisons and jails. Now, however, some communities have begun diverting those with mental health issues to treatment programs. 

Sandy Hausman / WVTF

Experts say one of every five people in state prison has a serious mental illness, and the rate is even higher at Virginia’s 62 regional jails, but the General Assembly provides little funding for mental health care behind bars. 

Lynn Friedman / Flickr


In the late 60’s, politicians and mental health experts agreed that large hospitals were not great places for most people to recover from a psychiatric illness.  Staying at or near home, getting services in the community, was a better bet.  

AP Photo / Evan Vucci

It’s been three years since the son of state Senator Creigh Deeds attacked his father with a knife – then took his own life with a gun.  Gus Deeds was mentally ill, but his local community service board claimed no treatment centers had a place for him.  Now, a commission chaired by Senator Deeds and Delegate Rob Bell is preparing to make recommendations for reform.