McDonnell announces mental health funding, Albemarle OKs auxiliary cops, PEC protects estate: News briefs

Bob McDonnell. File photo. Bob McDonnell. File photo.

Check daily and pick up a copy of the paper Wednesdays for the latest Charlottesville and Albemarle news briefs and stories. Here’s a quick look at some of what we’re following.

Statewide mental health initiatives announced in wake of Deeds tragedy

Three weeks after the son of State Senator Creigh Deeds stabbed his father multiple times, then shot himself, Governor Robert McDonnell announced changes in the way the state will handle mental health crises.

“Over the years, including the events of April 16, 2007, Virginians have experienced tremendous heartache as a result of mental health tragedies,” McDonnell stated in a December 10 press release, referring to the mass shooting at Virginia Tech. “These experiences serve to underline the need to ensure that all individuals and families experiencing mental health crises have access to the needed services without delay.”

In addition to forming a task force devoted to improving how mental health emergencies are handled in the state, McDonnell pledged $38.3 million over the next two years to be put toward critical mental health and substance-use disorder programs. An additional $95.8 million in funding will go to the Department of Justice mental health and training center settlement, which stems from the federal government’s 2011 finding that Virginia was violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to provide adequate community resources for individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities.

Some of the specific mental health initiatives:

  • Adding another optional two-hour extension to the time allowed to conduct a bed search in crisis situations. The current limit is six hours.
  • Extending Temporary Detention Order from 48 hours to 72 hours
  • Expanding the availability of secure crisis intervention team (CIT) assessment centers·
  • Providing additional funding to both Eastern and Western state hospitals.

As extensively reported in this paper and in national media, the family of 24-year-old Austin C. “Gus” Deeds attempted to have him committed to a psychiatric facility on Monday, November 18. Instead of receiving in-patient care, he was sent home with his father after the Rockbridge Area Community Services Board failed to place him in a hospital within the six-hour time frame permitted by Virginia law. While the details of those efforts have not been fully revealed, a week after the tragedy, Senator Deeds told the Monterey Record he holds RACS accountable and promised to dedicate himself to improving mental health care to prevent future tragedies.

County approves volunteer cops 

Albemarle County supervisors approved a plan last week that will add as many as 18 unpaid auxiliary officers to the county police force.

Lieutenant Mike Wagner said volunteers will be classified into three levels of service, with lower-level officers lacking arrest powers and those in the top two tiers possessing full police responsibility and clearance to carry firearms. Those in the top tier would be able to assist with criminal investigations.

According to Albemarle Police Chief Colonel Steve Sellers, the introduction of the auxiliary officers will free up paid police from routine tasks like crowd control at events, and will cut down on costs associated with officers traveling across their big jurisdiction.

The cost of outfitting the initial six auxiliary officers, who have already begun training, will total $8,400, police said, an amount the department says will be covered by existing funds in its 2014 budget.

Historic Albemarle estate placed in conservation

The Piedmont Environmental Council announced this week that it has closed on a deal that will conserve 520 acres of the historic Enniscorthy estate, a Southern Albemarle farm originally home to a historic Virginia family.

In a press release issued by PEC Monday, owner Peter Bertone said he and his wife Joyce were interested in securing a conservation easement on the property barring future development even before they purchased it.

The farm—which lies less than a mile from another historic Albemarle property, Estouteville—was originally occupied by the Coles family, including secretary to Jefferson Isaac Coles and prominent abolitionist Edward Coles.

The easement acquisition brings the total number of acres held by PEC in its nine-county region to 7,280.

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