Officials unveil new Crisis Triage Center for psych issues - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

Officials unveil new Crisis Triage Center for psych issues

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -

The City of Richmond and Chesterfield County are at the forefront of the battle against a hot button issue - mental illness. Tuesday, officials unveiled a new Crisis Triage Center at Chippenham Hospital, where police officers will be able to take people who are experiencing psychiatric issues.

Safety issues arising from mental health concerns are something we've seen often. The suspect in the Navy Yard shooting had reported psychiatric concerns, as did the shooter in the Virginia Tech massacre, among others. It's a problem law enforcement continues to try and tackle. This new program joins their experience with the expertise at The Tucker Psychiatric Pavilion.

Police get calls for a person with a mental health issue causing some sort of problem regularly. Those problems may start out as minor, but could escalate if not treated. 

"There had to be a better way and so this is a step in the right direction," explained Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones.

Only NBC12 cameras went on tour with the mayor to see that right direction. Jones believes the new Crisis Triage Center could be preventative and ultimately increase public safety.

"This way we are evaluating people, triaging, making sure they go to the right place and if they need help, we can get them help before their problem becomes worse and it becomes some type of problem for the entire community," he explained.

In the new program, officers would bring a patient through the emergency room but instead of waiting, that person would be seen immediately by medical staff and other law enforcement stationed there.

The officer who brought the patient in could leave in minutes, instead of hours. Richmond Police Chief Ray Tarasovic believes this will increase citizens' safety on the streets.

"We're saving somewhere between two and three hours per visit," he said. "That's two or three hours of an officer acting in his public safety capacity as opposed to his maintaining someone at a facility capacity."

Sheriff C.T. Woody says the new plan also counters a long-standing problem of jail overcrowding when he is forced to house people with mental health issues.

"It would be putting people where they belong, so that they can be treated medically," he added. "This is what you call actually treating the cause instead of putting a Band-Aid on the wound."

Doctors at Chippenham say this is a good first step. They're hoping to make more acute beds available, so they won't have to eventually transfer people to the jails.

Copyright 2013 WWBT NBC12.  All rights reserved.

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