Editorial: Out of the shadows
It was an initiative started in Virginia under a Republican administration and has now been given top priority under a Democratic administration. But it’s an issue that transcends political boundaries and touches nearly every family across the commonwealth.
In the wake of last year’s tragic death of Sen. Creigh Deeds’s son, a young man who took his own life following years of mental health problems, then-Gov. Bob McDonnell brought resources and attention to bear to address this problem. In addition to including $38 million in his budget for mental health crisis funds, McDonnell established, by executive order, the Governor’s Task Force on Mental Health Services and Crisis Response.
This month, Gov. Terry McAuliffe appointed his top man in Richmond, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, to head up this task force as its chairman. A medical professional as well as a former state senator, Northam is the perfect choice for this important role.
As Northam acknowledged, there are serious gaps in Virginia’s mental health procedures, services and programs. The death of Gus Deeds is proof of those gaps.
For too long, mental illness has been relegated to the shadows, only making itself known under the most tragic of circumstances. It is time that the stigma is removed and we, as a society, care for those who desperately need our help. The creation of this task force, and the appointment of Ralph Northam as its chairman, are steps in the right direction.