Gov. McDonnell announces plans to improve mental health programs

Posted at 1:18 PM, Dec 10, 2013

(CNN) - Outgoing Gov. Bob McDonnell proposed a $38.3 million budget Tuesday for mental health services over the next two years.

While officials say the budget and other initiatives have been in the works for a while, the announcement comes less than a month after Democratic state Sen. Creigh Deeds was stabbed more than 10 times by his son, who then shot and killed himself.

Deeds' son, Gus, was reportedly getting a mental health evaluation one day prior to the incident, but he was released from treatment because the facility lacked enough psychiatric beds.

"This is about fixing the system for all Virginians," McDonnell said. "Obviously it was a heartbreaking situation we experienced here recently. Senator Deeds is a very good man, good public servant. Obviously heart-broken about losing his son."

The announcement also comes the same day as Vice President Joe Biden is set to announce $100 million in new funding for mental health initiatives, nearly a year after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

For its part, Virginia robustly increased its mental health spending after the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007. But McDonnell said the commonwealth needs to do more.

"Just looking over the last six-seven years, I think we just have a deeper obligation to try to...put resources into the system for everybody," he said.

The new funds will go towards crisis intervention and substance abuse disorders. McDonnell added that the commonwealth has dedicated even more money towards preventative measures involving mental health this year. All told, the amount comes close to $100 million, he said.

McDonnell, whose term ends in January, also proposed the creation of a task force that will make further recommendations for other initiatives.

His successor, Democratic Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe, praised McDonnell and pledged to uphold the new efforts.

"As governor I will work with the General Assembly to build upon the solid foundation Governor McDonnell laid today so that all Virginians can access the care and resources they need to live safe, healthy and productive lives here in the Commonwealth," he said in a statement.

Click here for the breakdown of the governor's proposal.