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Attorney general proposes to fund law enforcement training for responding to crisis situations involving the mentally ill
- $800,000 grant from AG's office would fund more training around state -
RICHMOND (June 28, 2013) - Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli released a proposal today to give $800,000 to the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) for training to help law enforcement better respond to crisis situations involving individuals with mental illnesses.
Law enforcement, other first responders, and corrections and jail personnel routinely interact with individuals with mental illnesses. Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training provides the tools they need to safely deal with these citizens and also helps those who are ill get the proper care they need. Based on a jail survey conducted in 2011, 25 percent of Virginia's inmates had mental illnesses and 12 percent had serious mental illnesses.
The attorney general's $800,000 grant would come from asset forfeiture proceeds earned from the national Medicaid fraud investigation his office led against Abbott Laboratories, Inc. Abbott paid the forfeiture as part of a 2012 settlement. The federal government still holds most of Virginia's $115 million in forfeiture funds, so the attorney general submitted a proposal this week to the U.S. Treasury Department to seek approval to distribute part of the funds to DCJS for CIT training. Cuccinelli will be submitting more proposals to release additional funds for other law enforcement uses in the coming weeks and months. DCJS is responsible for implementing programs and initiatives to improve the functioning and effectiveness of the commonwealth's criminal justice system.
The CIT program is the premier police-based, mental health crisis response initiative in the
country. The program's goals include:
- increasing public safety through better identification of, intervention with, and access to services for individuals with mental illness;
- reducing injuries to law enforcement and citizens; and
- referring people to mental health services in lieu of incarceration when appropriate.
Virginia's CIT programs started in 2001 in the New River Valley in Southwest Virginia. In 2009, the General Assembly enacted legislation to develop CIT programs throughout the commonwealth. As of August 2012, Virginia has 30 CIT programs in planning, developing, or operating stages. The $800,000 grant will not only increase CIT capacity across the state, but will also ensure consistency among the programs.
"This is an important program that will receive funding to ensure that more of our first responders get the training they need to deal with these difficult situations. The added bonus is that it won't be at the taxpayers' expense," said Cuccinelli.
As a state senator and private attorney, Cuccinelli worked to improve the commonwealth's mental health system. Since 1997, when he was in private practice, he served as a court-appointed attorney for individuals with mental illnesses in Virginia's involuntary civil commitment process. After joining the Senate in 2002, he successfully sponsored legislation that provided for more humane treatment of the mentally ill.
In 2008, working in a bipartisan manner, he pushed through a bill to ease the process for involuntary commitment, to restrict gun ownership rights for those with mental illnesses, and to help break down barriers for sharing information between doctors and the court system.
Although the asset forfeiture money is the attorney general's office's to keep, Cuccinelli has been making plans for more than a year to use the majority of the proceeds for grants to local police and sheriffs' departments to buy needed equipment such as bulletproof vests, tactical vehicles, and police cars. He has also requested that funds be set aside for continuing training for law enforcement and local prosecutors.
The Virginia-led Medicaid fraud investigation led to the second largest Medicaid fraud settlement in U.S. history at the time. In May 2012, Abbott Laboratories Inc. pled guilty and agreed to pay $1.5 billion to resolve criminal and civil liability arising from the company's unlawful promotion of the prescription drug Depakote for uses not approved as safe and effective by the Food and Drug Administration.