RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – An investigation is underway after police allegedly dropped off a child at a Virginia mental hospital without waiting for an employee in what the state’s behavioral health agency described as “a very unsafe manner.”
State Sen. Creigh Deeds (D-Bath) and Nelson Smith, commissioner of the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS), began openly discussing the alleged incident during a Behavioral Health Commission meeting in Richmond on May 17.
Sen. Deeds said he heard that a child was “left at the door” of the Commonwealth Center for Children and Adolescents (CCCA) in Staunton, the only state-run facility that accepts minors, by a police officer during a temporary detention order transport.
Deeds also said that the officer didn’t wait for an employee and left the child outside with their belongings, adding that he learned that no beds at the facility were open for the minor.
Smith confirmed the alleged incident during the public meeting, even telling Deeds and the panel of state lawmakers that there is a video. Deeds, who called the situation “inexcusable,” told Smith he wanted to see the video.
In a brief phone interview Wednesday, Deeds told 8News that he is “livid” about the situation and expressed concern over an officer leaving a “vulnerable child in a position where their vulnerabilities could be exposed even more. But he said that the alleged incident underscores a deeper issue within the state’s behavioral health system, pointing to the shortage of workers.
Police in the city of Covington, Virginia, received a complaint on May 14 about a temporary detention order transport involving a juvenile and opened an internal review of the incident on May 16.
“A thorough review will be completed in accordance with Department policy and the Code of Virginia,” Covington Police Chief Christopher Smith said in a statement. The city’s department did not identify the officer and said no other comment would be provided at this point of the review.
“An incident occurred over the weekend where a child was dropped off at CCCA in a very unsafe manner. We understand the incident is being investigated by the Covington Police Department and we will assist in this investigation in any way possible,” a DBHDS spokesperson said in an email. “Importantly, the child is now safe and receiving treatment.”
Deeds, who said he initially learned of the alleged incident on Facebook, added that he understands law enforcement’s concerns over having to transport people, but that there is no excuse for an officer to get “frustrated” over having to drive 75 miles from Covington to Staunton and dropping off an unattended minor at the facility’s door without checking in with the hospital.
“[The officer] didn’t talk with anyone. Just told the child to stay, like you would do with a dog,” Deeds said. “It’s unacceptable.”
The senator said that he has not yet seen the video that Smith spoke of during the commission’s meeting on Tuesday but he intends to continue to look into the matter. 8News reached out to the facility on Wednesday but CCCA did not returned its call.
Update: On May 20, the city of Covington asserted that statements about the alleged incident did not support facts “substantiated” by the officer’s body camera footage.
“Since Saturday, Covington’s Division of Police has completed its Internal Affairs Review and has concluded that the Officer acted in good faith per the Code of Virginia where the magistrates issues temporary or emergency detention order (TDO/ECO) that directs local law enforcement to transport individuals to designated mental health facilities,” the city wrote in a statement.