Lack of beds, resources at mental health facilities drain Herndon Police Department


Herndon Police Chief Maggie DeBoard said the lack of beds in mental health facilities worsens a mental health crisis and takes much needed local officers off the streets for long periods of time.

Currently, law enforcement officials must transport people with mental illness who pose a danger to themselves and others to a public facility for treatment if a temporary detention order is issued. . These orders, which are issued by a magistrate, can last up to 72 hours, immobilizing police officers who often have to sit with the individual until a bed is found.

“This is a significant loss of staff,” said city lawyer Lisa Yeatts.

TO Meet in front of Herndon City Council earlier this month, DeBoard urged City Council to support state legislation that would ban the issuance of temporary detention orders when space is not available at a facility. state health.

Often, public facilities do not have beds. And when they don’t, the police must stay with the individual until a bed is available or the temporary detention order is lifted.

In one case last month, two Herndon police officers – one of whom was certified but in training – had to transport a man who had voluntarily agreed to come with the police for a mental health assessment from his home. While on the highway, the man began to strangle himself in the backseat of the police car with the seat belt on.

The police stopped, forcibly defused the situation, and tried to find a bed for the man for 23 hours.

Eventually, they found a bed in Petersburg, nearly 141 miles from the Herndon Police Department. In another case, police had to travel to Roanoke with a person suffering from a mental health crisis.

DeBoard noted that the crisis is complex and cannot be explained by a shortage of beds alone. Public funding for private transport, limited local resources, lack of coordination between mental health facilities and law enforcement were identified as other factors.

In July, five of the state’s eight mental hospitals were firm to new admissions. Facilities have been ordered to reduce bed capacity and consolidate staff due to a workforce crisis that has created an “unsafe environment where staff and patients are at increased risk of harm. physical, ”according to Alisan Land, commissioner of the state’s behavioral health and departmental services department.

The Virginia Police Chiefs Association and Foundation said law enforcement did not create this problem and cannot solve it on its own. In a statement released earlier this year, the organization wrote the following:

Mental health professionals have shared that it’s not whether the person has insurance that determines whether a bed is found. The critical problem facing hospitals is the growing number of violent people in mental health crises that hospitals and mental health facilities cannot accommodate and who pose a great risk to staff. We can empathize, but law enforcement cannot fix this.

State mental hospitals have struggled for years to manage an increase in admissions. State law requires them to admit patients after eight hours if a bed cannot be found in another facility, including private.

City Councilor Signe Friedrichs said she saw the local impact of this crisis on health. She became involved in a situation where an individual was shouting in the city streets creating a stressful situation for the individual, the business owner involved, police called and a taxi driver demanded to surrender on site.

“All of these things are cascading and causing more hardship for the police,” Friedrichs said.

The problem will require a solution with a coordinated state effort because it is a statewide challenge, DeBoard said.

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