You most likely heard that my colleague, Sen. Creigh Deeds (D-Bath County), underwent a horrible ordeal last fall with his son Gus, who was suffering from severe mental illness. The Deeds family had realized that Gus needed urgent help and were doing everything they could to ensure his well-being, but a psychiatric bed could not be found for him when it was desperately needed. In a horrific turn of events, Gus critically stabbed his father and then took his own life. Senator Deeds has shown remarkable resilience and courage to see that other families do not endure similar tragedies.
I have co-sponsored two of Senator Deeds’ bills that will make much-needed improvements to our mental health system. Senate Bill 260 would allow an Emergency Custody Order of up to 24 hours while a bed is sought by an individual in need of critical help. Currently, an individual like Gus can only be detained for 4-6 hours if a bed is not found; nearly every other state provides for up to 24 hours. Creigh informed me that less than one person per day on average in the entire Commonwealth has been turned away for lack of a bed; while this number is fortunately small, each of these cases can be life or death. This bill would require the development of an electronic database of all psychiatric beds statewide to be available to Community Services Boards (CSBs) when an individual needs help. A state bed would be offered as a last resort if no private beds are available. I also co-sponsored Senate Joint Resolution 47 calling for a study of our entire state mental health system.
On Sunday afternoon, the Senate Finance Committee unveiled its version of the two-year budget to take effect July 1. Although Virginia’s economy is doing better than most states, revenue collection has not been as strong as previously forecast. With that in mind, the Finance Committee has prudently decided to propose a budget that is more in line with the revised estimates. Especially given these circumstances, I am extremely happy that the Finance Committee granted my request to hire three new forensic scientists to reduce the backlog in the processing of Physical Evidence Recovery Kits (PERKs). These kits collect DNA evidence used to document, investigate and prosecute cases of sexual assault. Processing these kits more quickly will allow law enforcement to place suspects in custody sooner, prevent further crimes and provide closure to victims.
Thanks to all of you who joined Del. Rob Krupicka and I for our Town Hall Meeting this past Saturday in Alexandria. I enjoyed the opportunity to answer questions and provide an update on the legislative session.
You can email me at email@example.com with your thoughts on pending legislation or other state matters. I am also active on Facebook and Twitter (@AdamEbbin).
It is my continued honor to represent the citizens of the 30th Senate District.