HENRICO COUNTY, VA. (WRIC) — Henrico police have created a new tool for residents to help first responders respond to a mental health emergency or crisis. This follows the Marcus Alert bill, named after Marcus-David Peters, being signed into law.
Virginia law requires all localities to comply with the Marcus Alert and 911 system. July 1 was the deadline to provide a written plan outlining the role of the Henrico County Police Department and its engagement with the development of the Marcus alert system, the department’s role in the development of minimum standards, best practices, and the review and approval of the protocols for law-enforcement participation in the Marcus alert system. Also, localities had to provide plans for the measurement of progress toward the goals for law-enforcement participation in the Marcus alert system.
The Henrico County Police Department is hoping that an online database will do the trick. According to Henrico Police Lieutenant Matt Pecka, this is a great tool.
“Not just for police, but all first responders,” said Pecka.
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The Marcus alert database is named after Marcus-David Peters, who was fatally shot by a Richmond police officer in 2018. Peters was shot during an apparent mental health crisis on Interstate 95 as he was charging the officer.
Pecka told 8News, the department collaborated with Henrico Mental Health Developmental Services, and the police force’s information technology department to develop a community link.
“We have these conversations at how we can best help our community,” said Pecka.
A Henrico County resident with a behavioral health or mental health illness, brain injury or developmental or intellectual disability can provide information to the online database. Residents can fill out their name, demographic and healthcare information. A loved one can provide this information as well. Responding members will be able to search by name in the field.
“These situations could be life or death so if we have someone that’s wandering into the community unattended and we have this information and knowledge, we can search that information and hopefully reunite that individual back to their loved ones,” said Pecka.
According to Henrico Police, the department receives around 9-10 mental health related calls a day and they’re consistently rising. Pre-registered healthcare information would help first responders in an emergency.
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Resident Nathan Land is an advocate that organized for police accountability with Marcus’s family. Land believes more could be done within localities.
“In Marcus’s case, this database likely wouldn’t have stopped an officer from using lethal force, as Officer Michael Nyantaki verbalized signs of mental illness to his peers before firing his weapon,” Land said. “It concerns me to think about how certain officers will use people’s medical information to criminalize or use force on people living with medical needs. They are not doctors or mental health professionals.”
Laura Totty, who is the Henrico Area Mental Health & Developmental Services Executive Director believes this database would be a great assistance for mental health patients.
“The addition of a voluntary database to identify individuals’ mental illness and developmental disability and emergency contact information adds one more tool to assist individuals experiencing
mental health emergencies,” Totty said. “The database has the potential to strengthen a coordinated response among public safety and mental health agencies. This coordinated response offers the opportunity
for better outcomes for many individuals and to reduce unnecessary hospitalizations.”
Click here to register a profile. Henrico police will call residents after their forms are filled out to make sure the information is accurate.
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