How VA County’s Cops Handle the Mentally Ill Amid Treatment Cuts


Volatile and sometimes deadly confrontations between the police and the mentally ill have been more common since state psychiatric hospitals began to discharge large numbers of patients in the 1960s and 1970s. In response, police departments have launched “crisis intervention” training to create cadres of officers with more than just an hour or two of mental health training. With financially strapped state and local governments cutting community-based mental health programs, the pressures on police could mount as more people leave treatment, says the Washington Post.

The Post describes how the police handle cases involving the mentally ill in Fairfax County, Va., a major Washington suburb. Virginia has been cutting back inpatient and community care for the mentally ill. In Fairfax, where the county's wealth helps supplement state mental health funding, the mental health mobile crisis unit hasn't grown since it was created three decades ago. Since then, Fairfax's population — and the police force — have each nearly doubled in size.

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