OPINION: Responding to Mental Health Related Emergencies

This past year, the realities of police brutality have caused people to voice their thoughts on the police department and stand together to demand change. Mental health cases have been increasing and more police officers are being criticized due to how they handle the situation.
George Floyd and Daniel Prude, who both suffered from mental health issues, portrayed a rising problem after being killed by the police. Cases of police interaction with people struggling with mental health are gaining public attention from the news channels all over, resulting in increased awareness and demands for improvements.
The police department is a complex system with many internal sections and strategies to handle certain situations. In Fauquier County, police officers receive 40 hours in the Crisis Intervention Training according to Sargent (SGT.) Steven Lewis. He believes that the training is necessary so it can help de-escalate the situation. So, police officers in Fauquier County should know what they are supposed to do since they are receiving the training.
In Newport Virginia, a 17-year-old female, Raven Keffer, died after going into cardiac arrest because the nurses at her mental health facility weren’t appropriately helping her. Keffer’s parents recently gave up their parental rights so after being placed in foster care, Keffer relapsed. According to the Daily Press, a witness said the nurses kept saying that Keffer “was faking” and “that she is doing this to herself.”
A medical professional is supposed to do their job without judgment and they are supposed to help the patient not make them worse. The same goes for police officers, their job is to de-escalate the situation not to make things worse. This needs to change.
According to Mental Health First Aid, 10 percent of police calls are related to a mental health illness. The total number of calls this year, so far, that are related to mental health illness in Fauquier County is 154 including all five districts.
Medical professionals and police officers should both be notified if a mental health crisis is taking place. If possible a medical professional, like Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), should ride with a police officer on a call. This way, if the 911 call is about a mental health crisis, both first responders could arrive, at the scene, at the same time.
In Fauquier there is a new program, “Embedded Clinician”, that started about three weeks ago. A mental health professional, or clinician, from the Rapidan Community Service Board has been assigned to the Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office,. He/she will arrive at the scene, with law enforcement, when either the Sheriff’s Office or the Warrenton Police Department is called. Lieutenant Andrew Marshall is hopeful to expand this program so they can treat all mental illness health calls.