Mental health is an oft-forgotten topic that affects many, including those right here in our community. Understanding, compassion and empathy go a long way when approaching someone in crisis.

Under the current mental health system, first responders are frequently the first line of response to an individual experiencing a mental health crisis. Under my leadership, all patrol and jail deputies will be certified in crisis intervention and mental health first aid. Additionally, co-training with other first responders to address the needs of this population will only better prepare us to support them in their unique situations. When we encounter an individual experiencing a mental health crisis, we must know how to intervene appropriately as a team.

When individuals refuse voluntary treatment, a law enforcement officer can begin the process of obtaining an emergency custody order from a magistrate. The individual is safely transported and evaluated to assess the need for hospitalization or treatment. Unfortunately, this can be a lengthy process, often removing deputies from patrolling our community.

As your sheriff, I am committed to working with the local Community Services Board to streamline the process, returning deputies to the road faster. Fostering public-private partnerships can increase the availability of mental health services in the Botetourt community, providing preemptive care to those who seek it. 
It’s time to shed the stigma associated with mental health. As the adage goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Jeffrey L. Stritesky