Following the recent completion of a micro-pilot study, the Fairfax County Police Department and Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board (CSB) began arrest on 29th. The program consists of members of the CSB’s Mobile Crisis Unit and FCPD officials who respond to emergency calls warranting crisis intervention.
The introduction of the co-responder model is the latest step in the county’s Diversion First program, an initiative spearheaded by law enforcement and community leaders in 2016. Diversion First aims to intervene as early as possible in the criminal justice process to identify individuals who would be better served by mental health and substance abuse treatment than incarceration for minor offenses.
Diversion First came into being after a joint process between law enforcement, rescue workers, the judiciary and community services found that a proactive crisis intervention program could provide treatment to vulnerable residents that would reduce incarceration, cut costs and free up officers’ time on patrol Enforcement could often spend countless hours transporting patients and waiting in emergency rooms.
In 2020, FCPD officials responded to 9,989 service calls regarding a mental illness, and law enforcement officials were involved in 2,165 service encounters with a team from the Merrifield Crisis Response Center, according to the latest Diversion First report.
For the sheriff’s office alone, the MPs carried out 77 long-distance transports from the MCRC to psychiatric hospitals, 215 transports from the adult prison to psychiatric hospitals or one hospital to another and 1,181 transports to local hospitals, according to Andrea, Ceisler, spokesman for the sheriff’s office ( the sheriff’s deputies are not part of the co-responder team as they do not respond to emergency calls).
Several other factors also influenced the creation and continuation of Diversion First. After the 2013 shooting of Springfield-based John Geer by an FCPD official, the district formed a police practice review commission that recommended the creation of a crisis intervention program in 2015. The launch of Diversion First was additionally made possible by the death of Natasha. pushed forward in 2015 by McKenna, who was previously diagnosed with schizophrenia and who had stopped breathing after being examined several times by the Fairfax Sheriff’s deputies trying to move her to another facility.
The General Assembly also recently passed a bill known as the “Marcus Alert” system, named after high school biology teacher Marcus-David Peters, who was killed by the Richmond Police in 2018 while going through a mental crisis to provide crisis interventions around the Commonwealth with the aim that by 2026 every location will be served by a crisis intervention program. Fairfax’s co-responder program known as the “Memphis Model” will meet the criteria of the new law.
So far, Diversion First has had some success. According to the program’s most recent annual report, the number of behavior-related health populations convicted of offenses in the county jail fell by 28 percent between 2015 and 2020; the number of inmates referred to CSB prison services over the same period rose 21 percent. Since 2016, annual cases at the Merrifield Crisis Response Center have increased 37 percent.
A report recently published in FFXnow found that 46 percent of FCPD officers and 30 percent of sheriff’s deputies have received crisis intervention team training, which officers go through to respond to mental crises. As the story notes, state guidelines discourage 100 percent of officers from receiving CIT training because it is viewed as a specialized role analogous to a SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) team, although there are differences in training from one inconsistent treatment in the field.
If an officer without CIT training believes that a person may be suffering from a mental illness, he or she will be instructed to call a replacement who has this training if time permits.
Sgt. Ian Yost of the FCPD’s Public Affairs Bureau wrote in an email that the department’s goal was to train more than 40 percent of officers in CIT to achieve 24-hour coverage. Similarly, Ceisler wrote that the sheriff’s office goal is to train 25 percent of MPs. Both found that 100 percent of employees received training in mental health first aid. FCPD officers serving on the co-responder team must have CIT training.
Fairfax’s co-responder team is currently working an eight-hour shift Wednesday through Friday between noon and 8 p.m. on the American Rescue Plan’s funds to help recruit more staff. Yost noted that “staff shortages” at CSB clinics and officials have resulted in the co-responder team being limited and that the department “will expand the program as clinicians are hired and trained”.
Lisa Flowers, communications director for the Community Services Board, wrote in an email: “Efforts are being made to launch a full program that will provide 14-16 hours of coverage, seven days a week, with a longer-term goal of 24” . / 7 Coverage. ”She noted that the co-responder teams are new and need additional staff to expand. “Retention, recruitment, and hiring are ongoing priorities for the Fairfax-Falls Church community office and the Fairfax County government,” Flowers wrote.