The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Gus Deeds: What Went Wrong?

Posted on | November 19, 2013 | 60 Comments

Following up on today’s tragedy in Virginiastate Sen. Creigh Deeds was severely stabbed by his 24-year-old son, who evidently shot himself to death — I’m trying to find what led to the fatal conflict.

The good news, insofar as anything in this kind of situation can be “good news,” is that Sen. Deeds’ medical condition has been upgraded from “critical” to “fair,” meaning that he is likely to recover.

The Washington Post already has online a detailed and lengthy article:

The younger Deeds, who had withdrawn last month as a student at the College of William and Mary, underwent a mental health evaluation on Monday at a local hospital performed under an emergency custody order, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported. But the son was released from Bath County Community Hospital because no psychiatric beds were available across a wide area of western Virginia, the paper reported.
“This was preventable,” said Sen. Richard Saslaw (D-Fairfax), adding that a “breakdown in the mental health system” led to a lack of beds and prevented medical authorities from holding the younger Deeds. . . .
Dennis Cropper, the executive Director of the Rockbridge County Community Services Board, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that Gus Deeds on Monday had undergone a mental health evaluation performed under an emergency custody order. Cropper told the paper that the younger Deeds was released from Bath County Community Hospital because no psychiatric beds were available across a wide area of western Virginia.
In a statement, the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg said Gus Deeds had been enrolled as a student there since 2007 and withdrew last month. Geller said it was not immediately clear whether Gus Deeds lived at his father’s home. . . .
Sarah E. King, 27, of Bodega Bay, Calif., has known the Deeds family all of her life. She grew up about 15 minutes from their home and attended William and Mary with Gus Deeds. She is good friends with Rebecca Deeds.
“I can’t even really process it. It’s really ground-shaking, not only for all the Deeds, but the entire community,” King said. “Everyone is just devastated.”
Heather Hannah, who attended elementary and high school with Gus Deeds, saw him two weeks ago at a nearby Pizza Hut. She said the younger Deeds seemed like he was in good spirits.
“I asked him if he was doing all right and he said he was good,” Hannah said.
Hannah described Gus Deeds as intelligent and happy-go-lucky. She said he played in the marching and concert bands at Bath County High School. He played the trombone and harmonica. Hannah remembers Gus Deeds as a talented musician. For talent shows, he performed bluegrass numbers with a group of other students.
It was not immediately clear what prompted the effort to seek the emergency mental health evaluation for Gus Deeds.

Read the whole thing. These are the questions: Why had Gus Deeds dropped out of college? Why would this “happy-go-luck” musician spiral off into viral madness with such apparent suddenness? What led to the “emergency evaluation” for Gus Deeds?

The obvious hunch in this kind of situation is that the kid was on drugs, but nobody is actually saying that yet. At this point, most of the attention is on the shortage of psychiatric beds that led to Gus Deeds being turned loose Monday. But why was this kid in need of psychiatric treatment? No answers for that yet. If you see anything, please link it in the comments or send it to me on Twitter.

UPDATE: Clayton Cramer notes research showing “that 20% of the state to state variation in murder rates could be explained by availability of psychiatric beds.” That’s very interesting as a matter of public policy, of course. Right now, however, I’m just trying to get the facts behind this particular crime.



60 Responses to “Gus Deeds: What Went Wrong?”

  1. Alessandra
    November 20th, 2013 @ 2:56 pm

    Sorry, I have no newsletter. I do have a blog, but it’s more focused on “culture wars” issues. Although, by coincidence, I did write a post on the NSA-Snowden scandal this week.
    If you are really interested in mental health issues, Clayton Cramer has a blog where he gives attention to the issue. I haven’t followed it for quite some time, but I used to like many things that Cramer wrote in discussions around the Internet.

  2. Quartermaster
    November 20th, 2013 @ 3:32 pm

    Beat me to it Matt. The constitution must allow it for FedGov to be authorized to do something.

  3. William Sturm
    November 20th, 2013 @ 5:55 pm

    Please seek mental health counseling…

  4. Alessandra
    November 20th, 2013 @ 6:00 pm

    There’s no funding for it, haven’t you heard?

  5. Art Deco
    November 21st, 2013 @ 9:30 am

    Alessandra, psychotropic drugs may be over prescribed, but the sorts of people who are today on anti-psychotic drugs were not sixty years ago going about ordinary daily lives drug-free. They were confined in asylums.

    Re anti-depressants, that’s another story. The main alternative there (presuming you see a professional) is talk therapy and like strategems. Talk therapy reliably provides agreeable employment for a certain sort of bourgeois. It does not reliably generate any other accomplishments.

  6. Art Deco
    November 21st, 2013 @ 9:33 am

    Just to point out that the ratio of military expenditure to domestic product is currently 0.057. That would about half what it was in 1955, when state asylums had a patient census ten times what they have today.

  7. Art Deco
    November 21st, 2013 @ 9:41 am

    Article I, Section 8 of the federal constitution lists the specific functions delegated to the federal government. By and large, this has been ignored for 80 years, with the commerce clause, the general welfare clause, and the elastic clause being used to justify the entry of federal authorities into any realm of policy they care to enter.

    Federal involvement in the care of the insane could be justified under the following circumstances, and not much beyond that:

    1. Auxilliary to military justice.
    2. Auxilliary to police power over the territorial waters.
    3. As an aspect to police power over federal property or dependencies.
    4. As a fringe benefit for federal employees.

    Which is to say that federal asylums would be populated with people who were inmates of federal prisons, or who had lost their reason in the course of military service, or who were resident on Indian reservations, or who were residents of the District of Columbia or American Samoa, or who had recourse to them as retirees or veterans.

  8. Alessandra
    November 21st, 2013 @ 9:43 am

    Depending on what the problem is, and who is performing the therapy, yes, it does generate other accomplishments, including various forms of treatment of all kinds of aspects of mental disturbances and diseases.
    Depending again on all of the above, “therapy” can just be a form of bourgeois pastime.
    The fact that someone is in an asylum does not change the fact that they still need therapy/mental health treatment (not drugs), along with other treatment activities that are often not available to them.
    Because al-Qaeda is obviously more important…

  9. Art Deco
    November 21st, 2013 @ 5:07 pm

    I am sure you can find a subset of clients for whom the exercise in rent-a-friend is helpful. The key word is ‘reliably’. It’s not reliable. (But it is commonly covered by insurance and EAP programs, go figure).

  10. Alessandra
    November 21st, 2013 @ 5:16 pm

    If therapeutic mental health treatment is reliable in many ways for many people in many cases, your claim that it is not reliable implies that it never is reliable, i.e., it never works. Obviously you have no clue what therapy can do and who it can help, nor why nor how.