Roanoke County, Virginia

Improving Police Response to Mental Health Crisis in a Rural Area

Roanoke County Patch

Site LE Agency
Roanoke County Police Department

Site Researcher
Sue-Ming Yang, Ph.D., and Charlotte Gill, Ph.D., George Mason University Center for Evidence-Based Crime Police (CEBCP)

Site Focus
Mental Health Disorder

SPI Strategy
Evidence-based interventions for mentally ill, Multi-agency collaboration

Site Cohort

Site Profile
Small rural area of 250.52 sq. miles with a population of 94,409

Project Overview

The Roanoke County Police Department (RCPD) is focusing on providing improved mental health crisis services to the community and reducing police time and resources spent on mental health calls. Although only 2 percent of police calls are mental health related, each one requires significant officer time, upwards of two and a half hours compared to an average of 30 to 40 minutes per call. Additionally, 25 percent of RCPD officers’ use of force incidents involved a person with a known mental illness. In partnership with mobile crisis service provider, Intercept Youth Services/Crisis One, and the research team, RCPD is implementing a program using randomized control trials in which Intercept responds to identified mental health calls with officers.

Data Highlight

  • Mental health calls require ~2 hours and 28 minutes compared to ~39 minutes for other calls.
  • 25 percent of Roanoke County Police Department (RCPD) officers’ use of force incidents involve a person with a known mental illness.
  • Officer focus groups and surveys found the following:
    • Officers with more than 5 years of experience are more likely to mention deficiencies in the mental health system.
    • Dissatisfaction with the over-reliance on police/law enforcement to fill mental health provider roles.