Monday, July 31, 2017

Law Enforcement And Mental Health

Abingdon Police Department 


The week of July 23rd- 29th, 2017, the Abingdon Police Department responded to seven mental health calls. These cases came at the following costs:

77.5 hours were spent waiting in the ER for patient clearance and patient transport.  This translates in to 77.5 hours that were not spent patrolling our streets. In short, out of the 168 hour week, the citizens of Abingdon experienced a reduced officer presence for almost 1/2 of the week.

1,406.6 miles were spent in patient transport.  Our officers average approximately 135 miles per shift. This equates to 10 shifts of patrol time that were spent elsewhere in the Commonwealth, as opposed to patrolling to enhance the safety for the citizens of Abingdon.

$2,368.64 at a direct cost to tax payers.  The time, expense, and mileage costs are not reimbursed by any agency. These costs come directly from the police department budget. There is no provision in law for the department to seek reimbursement from the Commonwealth or insurance companies.

It is my hope that the legislature will address this issue, for good, in the next legislative session.  The putting patients in the back of patrol cars and driving them across the state for treatment is not the answer.  It stigmatizes the issues of mental health, is uncomfortable for the patient, creates mistrust in the patient's view of law enforcement, and reduces the safety of our communities.  The answer is not in how far away treatment is, but how close should it be.  We need to remove the police from the mental health equation.  Other states seem to have solved this equation years ago; I would think there are models out there to follow.

-Chief Sullivan

WCYB story on SWVa. law enforcement exhaust resources transporting mental health patients.

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