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DBHDS Press Releases

For Immediate Release: September 9, 2011
[ link to pdf ]

Virginia Helps Equip Police Officers to Make Safer, More Efficient
Responses to Individuals with Mental Illness in Crisis

Conference on Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT) to be Held Next Week in Virginia Beach

Victoria Cochran, Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services
    Email:; Phone: (540) 392-4101
Steve Clark, Law Enforcement Division, Department of Criminal Justice Services
    Email:; Phone: (434) 947-2938
Kathleen Drumwright, VA Beach Department of Human Services, City of Virginia Beach
    Email:; Phone: (757) 437.3608
Mira Signer, NAMI Virginia
    Email:; Phone: (804) 285-8264

Richmond, VA
– Next week, representatives from across the globe will gather in Virginia Beach to address the challenging issues that often arise when law enforcement officers interact with individuals with mental illness in crisis situations. Co-hosted by the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, the Department of Criminal Justice Services, the City of Virginia Beach, the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Virginia (NAMI Virginia) and the Virginia Association of Community Services Boards, the CIT International/Virginia CIT conference will be held September 12-14, 2011 at the Virginia Beach Convention Center (1000 19th Street, Virginia Beach, VA  23451).

For individuals with mental illness, involvement in the criminal justice system can be the beginning of a dangerous cycle of homelessness and emergency hospitalizations. For example, incarceration can lead to worsened symptoms, as jails are not generally equipped to provide adequate psychiatric treatment. Also, when incarcerated, people with mental illness often lose access to critical Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security benefits.  But for their mental illness, many of these individuals would not be in jail at all.  In addition, at the pre-arrest level, there is an increased probability of violence or injury to the individual or the officer. 

Through crisis intervention team (CIT) programs, police officers are specially trained in the skills and tools necessary to most effectively and safely address the behaviors of people with mental illness, prevent escalation of symptomatic behavior and determine when that behavior is better addressed in a clinical or jail setting. CIT officers recognize and respond with an increased level of awareness to the struggles of people with mental illness and can draw upon a wide range of services and supports and quickly access the most appropriate help available.  This training leads to safer crisis responses and resolutions for individuals with mental illness, the officers and anyone else involved. 

This conference will bring together law enforcement, mental health professionals, and families and persons impacted by mental illness to determine better ways of serving those with serious mental illness who come in contact with the criminal justice system, resulting in safer communities for all citizens and law enforcement officers. The conference will offer ways to improve existing programs and instruct localities in Virginia, nationally and internationally how to develop their own programs. Specific Virginia Beach departments involved in the event include the Department of Human Services, the Virginia Beach Police Department and the Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office. A conference agenda and further background information can be found at

CIT efforts in Virginia: CIT efforts began in Virginia ten years ago in the New River Valley. Today, nearly 3,000 officers, deputies, first responder and CIT core faculty have been trained through the program, and there are 23 recognized CIT programs across the state and dozens of communities interested in developing their own programs.  Specifically in Virginia Beach, the City’s CIT Assessment Center gives police officers the opportunity to make a secure hand-off of an individual needing assessment to security and emergency services staff in lieu of incarceration so they can return to patrol. 


Available to citizens statewide, Virginia’s public mental health, intellectual disability and substance abuse services system is comprised of 40 community services boards (CSBs) and 16 state facilities. DBHDS seeks to promote dignity, choice, recovery, and the highest possible level of participation in work, relationships, and all aspects of community life for individuals with a mental illness, intellectual disability or a substance-use disorder.

1220 Bank Street P.O. Box 1797 Richmond, Virginia 23218-1797
Phone: (804) 786-3921
Fax: (804) 371-6638 Web site:


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