Richmond’s mental health crisis system with limited police involvement seeing success

The system, named for Marcus David Peters, is designed to keep people in mental health crises out of the criminal justice system. Now, just six months after it
Published: Feb. 28, 2023 at 7:07 PM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - On Tuesday at Richmond’s City Hall, program leaders provided a lengthy update on the success of the “Marcus Alert” program launched in 2021 and bolstered in mid-2022.

The system is named after Marcus David-Peters. He was killed by a Richmond police officer in May 2018 while suffering a mental health crisis. The program is designed to keep people going through mental health emergencies out of harm’s way.

Richmond leaders are already calling it a success just six months after the launch of community response teams.

These teams responded to 227 calls from August to December 2022 and none of them resulted in force or injury.

There was also a 91% diversion rate.

“There were two arrests, both of them were for domestic violence which they had to be charged according to code,” Richmond Behavioral Health Authority CEO Dr. John Lindstrom said. “There were zero incidences of use of force or injury, which is pretty fantastic.”

The two community response teams are made up of Richmond police, behavioral health specialists, and 911 dispatchers.

They all work together to de-escalate the situation and provide professional care. In some cases, police do not respond and the mental health experts take care of it.

“Many citizens now who might be experiencing a mental health issue or a family member is experiencing one, we would like them to not be afraid to call because of the fear that they might be hurt in that process,” Lindstrom said.

Now, with that proof of success, those behind the program want more funding to expand the crisis response teams and help more people.

“The biggest issue now is how do we get the information to advance the furtherance of crisis response teams,” Lindstrom said.

The crisis response teams only work Monday through Friday, with fluctuating coverage from 9:30 a.m. to 2 a.m.

With more funding, the hope is for constant coverage 24/7 since the teams are already spread thin.

Over $1.6 million has been invested in the program from the city of Richmond and the State Department of Health, but Lindstrom says more will be needed in order for the “Marcus Alert” teams to have sufficient staffing.

Lindstrom says Chesterfield County will be the next jurisdiction implementing the program.

The current number for the National Suicide Prevention and Crisis Lifeline is 988.