Thousands of mental health patients in Virginia will no longer be taken to the hospital in the back of police cars.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that the state Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services plans to award a private security firm a $7 million, two-year contract to provide transportation for patients who are involuntarily hospitalized. The firm G4S will provide drivers to take patients to the nearest hospital with an available mental health bed.
Currently, local law enforcement officers drive patients in the back of marked vehicles, sometimes handcuffing them. The practice has been criticized as traumatizing for the patient and a waste of time and money for law enforcement officers.
The private firm will begin transporting patients this summer, using specially trained, unarmed drivers in unmarked vehicles.