The Marcus Alert Program: Providing Roanoke Valley Officers with More Resources in Handling Mental Health Crises

Mental health crises have always been a difficult issue for law enforcement to address. However, with the recent introduction of the Marcus Alert Program in the Roanoke Valley, police officers now have additional tools to help them better assess and respond to calls related to mental health crises.

The Marcus Alert Program is a statewide system designed to improve responses to mental and behavioral health crises using therapists to assist police. It was named after Marcus-David Peters, a young Black man who was shot and killed by police amid a mental health crisis in 2018. The implementation of the program began in 2020, and the Roanoke region launched the program on July 1 of this year.

The Blue Ridge Behavioral Healthcare CSB oversees the counties of Roanoke, Botetourt and Craig, the cities of Roanoke and Salem, and the town of Vinton, and their Marcus Alert team has already responded to 160 scenes since the program’s launch. The team consists of five clinicians, or co-response therapists, who are trained to respond to mental health crises if requested by a police officer. Clinicians can provide an in-person response, a telephone consult, or resources for follow-up within 72 hours of the initial call.

While the program has been met with an “overwhelmingly positive” response from Roanoke Valley residents, it is only the beginning. The New River Valley CSB is also planning to launch the Marcus Alert Program by July 1, 2024, and the General Assembly has plans to implement the program across the entire state by 2028.

Mental health crises are a difficult issue to address, and the implementation of the Marcus Alert Program is a big step in the right direction towards providing better resources and assistance to those in need. For more information, read the article posted here.

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