Williamsburg, Va. – A new program designed to aid in preventing individuals experiencing behavioral health crises from being improperly incarcerated opened in September at Riverside Doctors’ Hospital in Williamsburg (RDHW). The Virginia Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Services (DBHDS) on June 24 awarded Colonial Behavioral Health a grant to cover the costs to develop and open the center as well as annual operational funds. 

The Colonial Area Crisis Intervention Team Assessment Center (CITAC) provides area law enforcement officers an alternative location to safely take individuals who need behavioral health assessment and care.

"We are so grateful to Riverside, our local law enforcement and all our community partners who helped make this center possible. Without coordination, this center would not exist or be able to succeed," said Colonial Behavioral Health (CBH) Executive Director David Coe. "We are looking forward to continuing this partnership for years to come." 

CITAC is an arm of CBH’s Emergency Services department, which provides crisis services to all community members in times of need. 

"The mission of Emergency Services is to provide the most effective and compassionate intervention during an individual’s behavioral crisis. The opening of CITAC at Riverside Doctors’ Hospital is a great addition to our community as it provides a central location for police to bring individuals in crisis for evaluation and treatment.  Officers can transfer custody of individuals to a CIT-trained, unarmed security officer and get back on patrol quickly while individuals are assessed and linked to care," said Dr. Dan Longo, Colonial Behavioral Health’s Director of Behavioral Services.

The assessment center operates in an area of the hospital’s emergency department that was specially developed to support the needs of the center and its assessment staff as well as the law enforcement officers who bring individuals in for services. 

"At Riverside Doctors’ Hospital Williamsburg, we believe this program further supports our commitment to serving the health care needs of our community and to provide a resource for our dedicated law enforcement officers. By working together with law enforcement and CBH, we are better able to coordinate and extend care to those with mental illness," said Dr. James McCorry, Medical Director at RDHW.  "We’re also working closely with our sister hospital, Riverside Behavioral Health Center in Hampton where the staff is dedicated to assuring patients who need extended care, such as inpatient services, are transferred in a timely fashion so that treatment can begin immediately."

"I hope we will lessen the burden of the law enforcement officers who are so dedicated to helping our communities by working with the medical process to streamline the length of stay in the emergency department and provide a more therapeutic experience for the patient," said CITAC Manager Shawn McNulty.

McNulty started his career with Colonial Behavioral Health in January, when he accepted an internship in the Emergency Services Department. After completing his internship, McNulty was hired as a crisis counselor and was promoted to CITAC Manager in September. It was his dedication to and appreciation for the programs in place at Colonial Behavioral Health that led him to pursue a career in emergency services. 

"My family has been deeply affected by significant mental illness and addiction, just like so many others who work in the behavioral health field. Due to the stigma people face and the fear that comes with navigating an unwieldy system, many people do not seek help until the problem becomes too dangerous to ignore. My family was fortunate to have a support system like the one in place within Colonial Behavioral Health, so now I am working to pay back – and pay forward – the care my family received," McNulty said. 

RDHW is located at 1500 Commonwealth Ave., just over one mile from Colonial Behavioral Health’s main campus, where emergency and non-emergency behavioral and mental health services are regularly offered. 

Colonial Area CITAC is yet another step toward fulfilling Colonial Behavioral Health’s mission of providing vital, accessible behavioral health services to James City and York counties and the cities of Poquoson and Williamsburg. The center will increase Colonial Behavioral Health’s ability to aid law enforcement in responding to mental health crises and redirect Individuals with mental illness from the judicial system to the health care system. 

With CITAC now open, law officers who recognize the potential need for specialized mental and behavioral health services can bring the individuals straight to CITAC for assessment and care. CITAC is open – to law enforcement officers only – 4 p.m. until midnight daily. 

Other organizations and members of the public should continue to contact Colonial Behavioral Health at 757-220-3200 for emergency behavioral health services.

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Published: October 16, 2014