Step toward a solution

Published 1:32 pm Wednesday, May 29, 2019

According to a news release from The Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS) on May 7, the DBHDS is set to give G4S, a private security firm, a $7 million, two-year contract to transport those with mental health crises.

According to the release, G4S would “provide alternative transportation to an estimated 50 percent of all (Temporary Detention Orders) TDOs in Virginia during the contract period.

The Crossroads Community Services Board jurisdiction, which includes Charlotte County, is scheduled for the program to develop in the summer of 2020.

It appears that this program could have a number of benefits. Rather than being transported in a police vehicle, rather than being handcuffed, someone experiencing a mental health crisis who is being transported to a state hospital has the potential to do so in a way that is discreet and comfortable, according to DBHDS officials.

In developing any solution for mental health, it’s necessary to prioritize the person who is experiencing the crisis. Providing assistance in a way that puts the person and their free will first, that provides a humane and compassionate solution to a serious illness is a fantastic step in the right direction.

The Heart of Virginia represents much of the United States in its need for providing necessary mental health services. A need that is as widespread as mental illness requires multiple courses of action, which includes making mental health treatment and health insurance more accessible, removing the social stigma from mental illness, and promoting the importance of mental health and recognizing symptoms of illness starting at a young age. These actions will save lives.

According to the Virginia National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), approximately 239,750 to 305,000 have a serious mental illness, which is defined as a disorder that meets the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) criteria, interferes with one or more major life activity and requires urgent need for treatment.

In addition, it’s estimated that nearly 1 in 4 of Virginia’s jail inmates live with a mental health disorder. The national rate of post-deployment mental health problems among returning veterans is about 15-20 percent at any given time.

Suicide is ranked 11th for cause of death among residents and was the third leading cause among 10- to 24-year-olds. Suicide has also seen an increase in Virginia and in the United States.

Rhonda Thissen with NAMI Virginia said the program would be a “net gain” for the mental health community. We at The Gazette hope that this program will be one step toward comprehensive and compassionate mental health treatment.