The Mental Health Crisis: Many Patients and Not Enough Beds
Austin “Gus” Deeds’ family knew something was wrong with the 24 year old college dropout when they sought a psychiatric examination earlier this week. After the exam, a magistrate issued an emergency custody order, but here was not a single bed available in Western Virginia’s mental health system and Deeds was sent home. The next morning, he stabbed his father, Virginia State Senator Creigh Deeds, multiple times in the face and chest and then shot himself. Gus died at the scene and his father was airlifted to the University of Virginia Hospital in critical condition.
In this just posted interview, Marc Silverstein talks with Dr. Daniel Lieberman, Clinical Director and Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at The George Washington Medical Faculty Associates about the critical need for adequate hospital beds for mental health patients.
“It’s not unusual to walk into a hospital and see people who are on stretchers in the emergency room, because there are no beds for them available anywhere in the city,” he says. The lack of beds, he explains, dates back to the 1960s, when many state hospitals were deinstitutionalized, forcing mental health patients out on the streets. In the years since, not much has been done to increase the availability of hospital care for mentally ill patients. “If a public figure like Deeds is not able to get treatment, low income or homeless people have much less of a chance of getting the help they need,” says Lieberman.
According to Lieberman, the best treatment is often done on an outpatient basis, and he encourages people to seek a mental health professional when they feel like they cannot manage their stress or emotional instability.