Many people experiencing mental health crises in Virginia find themselves in the back of police vehicles, driven to the nearest hospital, which is sometimes hours away. In 2018, there were 25,000 involuntary detentions and police transported 99 percent of them. This will soon change as the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services announced on Tuesday its plans to award a 2-year, $7 million contract to G4S, a private security firm that will transport involuntarily patients to the nearest hospital with available psychiatric beds.
G4S security firm drivers will be unarmed and trained in behavioral health crises and services, and will likely transport nearly half of involuntary patients. The new transportation program has the potential to simultaneously decrease distress and trauma people might experience when driven by police, sometimes in handcuffs when they’ve committed no crime, and allow officers to return to their jobs.