Virginia state agency seeking community input on developing the Marcus Alert System

Virginia state agency seeking community input on developing the Marcus Alert System
Governor Northam, accompanied by March David-Peter's sister, Princess Blanding, in a ceremonially signing of the Marcus Alert system legislation. (Source: NBC12)

ROCKINGHAM COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) - The Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS) is seeking input about how to create a statewide plan to ensure health-focused and therapeutic responses to behavioral health emergencies.

Over the next few weeks, the DBHDS will hold virtual listening sessions to gather community input.

“Specifically those who have lived experience with mental health disorders substance abuse disorders developmental disabilities involvement with law enforcement or detention and are asking folks to come and share their experiences with us and tell us what we should consider,” Lisa Jobe-Shields with DBHDS explains.

Links to the listening sessions can be round on the DBHDS Facebook page and they posted the following on Tuesday:

PLEASE SHARE: The Marcus-David Peters Act is a comprehensive approach to ensuring that Virginia provides a health-focused, therapeutic response to behavioral health emergencies and decreases reliance on law enforcement responses. The first requirement is a comprehensive plan for statewide implementation to be provided to the General Assembly by July 1, 2021.

The state plan will provide the framework that each locality must use to write a more specific local plan. We are seeking input from community members, particularly those with lived experience with mental health or substance use disorders, developmental disabilities, law enforcement involvement, temporary detention, or emergency custody as an individual or family member.

We want to hear what is most important to consider. This could include:

- Who responds when someone calls for help, like mental health workers, peer supports, law enforcement, or others

- When different response teams should be sent

- What type of response you would want for yourself or your loved ones during a behavioral health emergency

- Where teams should respond, like homes or schools

- Why these reforms are important to you or your community

- How we should monitor or measure if the plans are improving outcomes or not

The first three virtual listening sessions will be as follows:

Session 1: February 28th, 2021, 4 pm

Topic: Marcus Alert Community Listening Session

Please click the link below to join the webinar:

Passcode: Virginia1!

Session 2: March 3rd, 2021, 7 pm

Topic: Marcus Alert Community Listening Session #2

Please click the link below to join the webinar:

Passcode: Virginia1!

Session 3: March 6th, 2021, 2 pm

Topic: Marcus Alert Community Listening Session #3

Please click the link below to join the webinar:

https://dbhds.zoomgov.com/j/1619504729...

Passcode: Virginia1!

The comments and feedback will be used to write the state plan. Each local community will also be required to gather community input to develop the local plan. If you prefer to provide written comments for consideration, please email your input to marcusalert@dbhds.virginia.gov. Comments received before April 1 will be reviewed prior to the development of the state plan, but comments will continued to be reviewed until the plan is submitted. The sessions will also be recorded.

Local jurisdictions in the Shenandoah Valley have similar programs already in place.

“It’s actually considered an advanced course. A 40-hour training where we talk about how to deal with people with lived experiences such as mental illness people that might be in crisis and not having a mental illness,” explains Crisis Intervention team Coordinator Kelly Royston.

Royston said the program works with local authorities and clinicians to focus on prevention.

“We give people resources, other alternatives other than incarceration. Right now, we talk about hospitals you know and taking them to get medical treatment versus taking them to the jail because jail is not a place for somebody who is suffering from a mental illness,” Royston said.

To find more about how to submit your comments to the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, click here.

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