Virginia Beach officials announce nearly $1 million for innovative mental health program

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – Sheriff Ken Stolle announced on Tuesday that nearly $1 million in state funding has been granted for a comprehensive new program to improve mental health treatment in Virginia Beach.

The Virginia General Assembly has approved $916,066 for the program in the 2019-2020 state budget, pending approval by Gov. Ralph Northam. Gov. Northam has indicated that he supports the initiative.

The funding will enable the Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office in coordination with the Virginia Beach Department of Human Services to launch a unique program to divert, screen, assess and treat individuals with a mental illness or substance abuse disorder before, during and after incarceration.

The funding provides 12 positions to staff the program, which will be a joint effort between the Sheriff’s Office, its medical provider NaphCare Inc. and the Department of Human Services, which includes Adult Correctional Services and Community Corrections and Pretrial.

“Mental health is the biggest challenge facing law enforcement today,” Struzzieri said. “Under this new program, we are bringing together all the stakeholders to create a comprehensive solution to address mental illness in our community. This will help one of our most vulnerable populations and will make Virginia Beach a safer place by reducing unneeded incarcerations and recidivism. I am grateful for the work that Human Services has been put into developing this program with us and I am excited to see the results in the months and years to come.

Details of the program are currently being worked out, but some proposed changes include:

  • Provision of a comprehensive, evidence-based screening tool to screen inmates for mental illness within 24-48 hours of booking into the Virginia Beach
    Correctional Center, followed by a full diagnostic screening within three days via the jail’s medical provider; Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office Kathy Hieatt, Public Information Officer: 757-385-8446, khieatt@vbso.net
  • On-site staffing to provide mental health screenings, obtain medical and psychiatric records, and advocate for diversion for treatment outside the jail;
  • Improved monitoring and oversight of inmates with mental illness;
  • Comprehensive discharge and reentry planning to link inmates to available housing, counseling, family support and an adequate supply of medication upon their release;
  • Creation of a new family education and engagement program to support inmates’ successful reintegration with family;
  • Follow-up with former inmates within five days of release from jail to ensure continued access to medication, psychiatric appointments, etc.

Any questions or requests for additional information should be directed to Kathy Hieatt, Public Information Officer: (757)-385-8446.

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