Loudoun Panel Calls for Mental Health Co-Responders

A panel of law enforcement, mental health, and other public health and safety workers has identified developing co-responders—behavioral health professionals who answer some 911 calls alongside deputies and police—their top priority for Loudoun.

The recommendation came from the 2021 Cross Systems Mapping exercise, which brought together 30 agencies and others from the community to a two-day, eight-hour session. It mapped the winding paths a person with a behavioral health or developmental disability can be shuttled through government agencies, courts, the jail and nonprofits once they come to the attention of law enforcement. The results were reported to the Board of Supervisor’s finance committee May 11.

That group recommended that the county look into other jurisdictions that send mental health professionals out on certain calls and figure out “when, how, and who” to send alongside law enforcement.

One neighboring jurisdiction has already started doing that—Prince William County introduced such a system in late 2020.

Currently, in those situations, the Leesburg Police Department and Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office send out officers trained in Crisis Intervention Training, a program meant to deescalate situations involving people with behavioral health issues or developmental disability.

“I’ve received some concerns with people who are calling with someone in a mental health crisis, and believe that anyone who might be responding is CIT trained, and it’s not ending up in a place that it should end up if you’re sending in a CIT-trained officer,” said County Chair Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large).

The mapping exercise identified a number of other priorities, such as providing increased access to medication while incarcerated, strengthening collaboration among agencies, giving immediate access to temporary shelter, and establishing veterans’ docket in courts—an initiative already underway.

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