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South Boston Town Council moved decisively to impose a 10 cent-per-pack tax on cigarette purchases in town by voting 4-1 in favor of the levy Monday night.

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Second crisis assesement center eyed for area

SoVaNow.com / February 14, 2018
Mecklenburg County may soon have a crisis assessment center for individuals experiencing mental health emergencies.

One such center currently exists in South Boston at Sentara Halifax Regional Hospital.

A crisis assessment center offers individuals the opportunity to meet with a mental health professional for evaluation, crisis intervention and stabilization services on an emergency basis. They are used by law enforcement as an alternative to incarceration and as a services access point because they are staffed with personnel who can assess treatment needs for individuals picked up on an emergency custody orders, and make appropriate arrangements, including transport for those in need of in-patient crisis stabilization, detox, or other mental health related service.

Beth Engelhorn, head of the Southside Community Services Board, told members of the Mecklenburg County Board of Supervisors Monday she is hoping to commit $150,000 in unused grant funds from Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Development Services to establish a similar center at VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital in South Hill.

Engelhorn said she is waiting on final approval from both the hospital and DBHDS, which issued the grant.

Before the state agency will sign off on her request, Engelhorn said she must show proof of community support for the center. She has already received verbal agreements of support from Brunswick County Sheriff Brian Roberts and Mecklenburg County Sheriff Bobby Hawkins. At Monday’s supervisors meeting, she received the board’s support, but Engelhorn said she has yet to hear from the Brunswick County Board of Supervisors, and the South Hill and Lawrenceville police departments.

Major Terry Edmonds with the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office said county deputies will benefit greatly from having a second crisis assessment center in the area. “When the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office picks up a person on an ECO [emergency custody order], we have to transport them to the nearest medical facility to have them medically cleared before bed space can be found anywhere in the state.

“We have had numerous ECOs that have tied up deputies for over 24 hours,” he said.

In 2017, Edmonds noted, 86 officers spent 381-1/2 hours waiting to transport 52 people picked up on a temporary detention order or emergency custody order. Officers drove nearly 9,500 miles to bring these 52 individuals to facilities that would accept them.

A 2015 study conducted by the New River Valley Crisis Assessment Center in Blacksburg found that law enforcement involvement in the emergency custody order process was reduced by 80 percent whenever the area had an assessment center. According to the report, the average time that law enforcement officials in the New River Valley spent on an ECO was slightly more than four hours. Having a nearby Crisis Intervention Team Assessment Center reduced the time involved in the ECO process to an average of approximately 50 minutes.

If Mecklenburg County had its own assessment center, Engelhorn explained, both law enforcement officers and mental health clinicians would be present to facilitate the transfer of custody of an ECO patient to the crisis assessment center.

The money for this new crisis assessment center will come from a grant the Southside Community Services Board received from DBHDS in 2015. Engelhorn said, “The original grant provided coverage for Sentara Halifax Regional Hospital for 72 hours and covered the cost of services. We were funded for two positions but found that we were able to provide adequate coverage with the single position.

“We have asked DBHDS permission to split this grant and offer 40 hours of coverage in Sentara Halifax Regional Hospital and 40 hours of coverage at VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital. This would provide options for law enforcement in both hospitals in our catchment area to have ECO transferability and across Halifax, Mecklenburg and Brunswick for all law enforcement officers in those counties.”



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