Children in Virginia who are experiencing a mental health crisis have traditionally been shackled while they are transported to a mental health facility for treatment. Such shackling is traumatizing for children and detrimental to their cognitive and emotional development. Shackling has been required by law enforcement personnel, the default providers of mental health transportation. However, alternative transportation options to law enforcement exist and are actively being explored in Virginia in order to de-stigmatize mental health crises and minimize trauma caused by the transportation process. The Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services funded a pilot program in southwestern Virginia that allowed many adults experiencing mental health crisis to be diverted from law enforcement to a third party for transportation. The program was so successful that the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services established an alternative transportation workgroup to analyze the efficacy of adopting a statewide program. The workgroup adopted recommendations based on the pilot program, explored potential alternative service providers, and expanded their program to be child-inclusive. The General Assembly has adopted a three-year phased implementation of this proposal to allow for continual evaluation and assessment. This alternative transportation program is critical to ensuring better long-term care for children in crisis, as it represents a critical step away from the criminalization of juveniles and mental health issues to the rehabilitation of children and a treatment-focused approach to mental health.
Snapper Tams & Victoria Zicker,
Virginia Pioneers Mental Health Transportation Alternative for Children Under Temporary Dentition Order,
Rich. Pub. Int. L. Rev.
Available at: https://scholarship.richmond.edu/pilr/vol22/iss1/7