Marcus Alert begins to launch in five regions across Virginia, including Richmond

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – Starting today, Virginia is taking steps to transform its response to mental health crises with the launch of the Marcus Alert system.

Last year, Governor Ralph Northam signed the Marcus-David Peters Act which creates a set of protocols for how mental health providers and law enforcement response to crisis calls.

It comes nearly three and a half years after Marcus-David Peters was fatally shot by Richmond Police after he charged an officer in the midst of a behavioral health crisis.

Related coverage: Mental health workforce shortages could hinder Marcus Alert roll out, community providers say

While the Act won’t be fully phased in until 2026, the first five regions, including the City of Richmond, will begin to launch the framework December 1, 2021.

Those regions include:

  • Region 1: Orange, Madison, Culpeper, Fauquier and Rappahannock Counties
  • Region 2: Prince William County
  • Region 3: City of Bristol and Washington County, including the Towns of Abingdon, Damascus, and Glade Spring
  • Region 4: City of Richmond
  • Region 5: City of Virginia Beach

Mira Signer, Chief Deputy Commissioner for the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS), told 8News these five regions will be moving forward with the roll out of three main protocols for response.

The first protocol includes diverting 911 calls with lower threat levels to regional call centers or the 9-8-8 suicide hotline.

The second includes police departments entering into agreements with mental health mobile crisis teams when police are needed as back up.

The third includes officers minimizing the use of force when they do respond to mental health calls.

Other localities will have to submit implementation plans by July 1, 2022. All Virginia localities are to have the system in place by July 2026.

To learn more about the city of Richmond’s plan, click here.

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