Updated on Nov. 21
Hours after Gus Deeds, the son of Virginia State Senator Creigh Deeds, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in an apparent attempted murder suicide, an official told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that he’d been released from emergency psychiatric custody on Monday because of a lack of beds.
But on Wednesday, the state inspector general’s office announced it’s opening an investigation into why Deeds was released. Both private and public hospitals in the region say they didn’t receive any request to house the patient, and that plenty of beds were available.
“We have a member of our psychiatric emergency team on call around the clock, and the team member on call on Monday evening did not speak with anyone from Rockbridge [County Community Services Board ]” says Debra Thompson, a spokeswoman for Rockingham Memorial Hospital, which is about a one to two hour drive away. “If we had another patient request come in and the patient was appropriate for admission, we would’ve had a bed.”
Thompson says that Rockingham Memorial Hospital—which has a 20-bed inpatient mental health unit–is accustomed to taking patients from Rockbridge, and that they do not require a second evaluation when a patient has already being medically cleared at another facility to be admitted.
As the Washington Post originally reported, both Rockingham Memorial Hospital and state-run Western State Hospital—which is about 40 minutes away—did not receive calls regarding Deeds, and both had available beds. Most hospitals were about the same distance away, with a few general health centers within 15 minutes, and it remains unclear which hospitals were called and which were not.
John Beghtol, director of community services for Western State Hospital, the largest mental health facility in the region, told the Washington Post, “We had beds and we were not called.” He confirmed the fact with TIME.
Rockbridge County Community Services Board executive director Dennis Cropper, who gave the initial report to the Times Dispatch, declined to comment on the specifics of Deeds’ case. But he told TIME on Tuesday that not finding a bed was unusual. “I would say in terms of finding a bed, it’s usually 97% of the time. It is unusual that we’d never find a bed for somebody,” he said.
UVA psychiatrist J. Anderson Thomson told TIME beds are normally available in Charlottesville, Richmond and Lynchburg. “They all have mental health facilities,” he said.
Although Western State Hospital had open beds, spokesperson Meghan McGuire said it was likely not the first option. In most states, Virginia included, local communities reach out to private hospitals first for acute inpatient care.
“Private hospitals provide acute psychiatric inpatient care which is generally a short duration. Community services boards attempt to locate a bed as close as possible to the individual’s home and support network, but they will continue to reach out to hospitals farther away until a bed is found within the time period of the emergency custody order,” McGuire said in an email to TIME. (Officials typically have four hours to evaluate a patient, report their findings and locate a bed, according to Cropper.)
State-run mental health hospitals primarily focus on long-term, intensive, and specialized care. Still, public hospitals, like Western, retain beds if private hospitals have a shortage or cannot meet patients needs.
The exact circumstances of Deeds’ release remain unclear.
Additional reporting by Hawes Spencer/Charlottesville.