A portion of Virginia's share of a 115-million-dollar Medicaid fraud settlement with Abbott Labs has been divided up among local law enforcement agencies across the Commonwealth. The 4.2 million dollars in funds were presented to local sheriffs and police chiefs Wednesday in Richmond. The funds will support Crisis Intervention Team training to improve the ability to help people with mental health problems.
Police, other first responders, and corrections personnel routinely interact with individuals with mental illnesses. Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli points out that more than 25 percent of the statewide jail population has been diagnosed with mental health issues—and more than 12 percent with serious mental illnesses.
"And jail is no place anywhere in Virginia for the mentally ill and unfortunately our mental health system is weak. It is weak. We don't do well as a state. Now, we're not alone. But we don't do well as a state in addressing mental health problems for our Virginia citizens. And so one of the things that ends up happening, is our jails become our mental health institutions of last resort." Cuccinelli says the training will first help responders better recognize those who are mentally ill. It would then teach them how to use less violent and sometimes lethal force when there’s a crisis. The training will also help reduce injury to law enforcement personnel and enable them to refer those affected to proper health professionals. How localities use the funds will depend on what services they already had in place.