In its first month of operation, Arlington County’s mobile behavioral health response team has been busy responding to calls.
Most of these calls — which range from welfare checks to mental health emergencies and drug overdoses — involve people who are homeless, officials say. It’s a trend they attribute to the recent closures of shelters in D.C.
“There’s been a surge of homelessness in Arlington County because of the closures in D.C.,” says Grace Guerrero, senior clinical psychologist and mental health supervisor, noting many are leaving D.C. for Arlington as well as other parts of Northern Virginia and southern Maryland.
“We’ll see what unfolds,” she added. “But we have seen those upticks.”
During a media event on Thursday, Arlington County’s “Mobile Outreach Support Team” (MOST) showed off its retrofitted van, stocked with non-perishable food, water, a defibrillator, clothes, hygiene items, Narcan and fentanyl test strips.
The vehicle was funded through a 2-year, $390,000 federal grant — secured with help from Rep. Don Beyer — in an effort to divert police involvement from calls involving mental health crises, substance abuse or domestic violence.
The team comprises a licensed clinician, a peer recovery specialist and an outreach worker from the Dept. of Human Services. They will triage a situation on-site and provide peer support and conflict resolution. MOST also works with medical and behavioral health services to ensure people receive the appropriate care.
The MOST team receives about 20-35 calls per week, largely between the van’s operational hours of 1-9 p.m. Once the van arrives, most of the time, people accept the team’s help, which Guerrero noted can prevent situations from escalating and resulting in injuries or death.
Guerrero says she is unsure if MOST has significantly reduced police involvement in mental health crises at this point. That is in part because emergency responders are still, typically, the first to arrive on scene, and will call the MOST team for specialized assistance.
To further reduce police involvement in these calls, she is looking to develop an enhanced “decision tree” to help police assess when their presence may not be necessary.
“I don’t know that we’ve done yet the curbing of [police] going to these [situations] unless we self-deploy… But right now, in these first five weeks, I would say that probably allowed [police] to go back into service sooner, much sooner,” she said.
Reducing law enforcement involvement in mental health crises is a goal advanced by the Police Practices Work Group, which was convened to suggest reforms to the Arlington County Police Department after the death of George Floyd.
ACPD too has noted the increased entanglement of police officers in mental health emergencies and the officer burnout to which it is contributing. Like the police department, the jail also is seeing an influx of inmates with mental health disorders as well as homeless inmates.
This includes Abonesh Woldegeorges, a 73-year-old woman who died in the jail last month. Her death prompted some in and outside local government to renew pressure on the county to address the role of law enforcement in tackling homelessness and mental health emergencies.
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Children’s Weekday Program (CWP) is a non-profit preschool rooted in a play-based philosophy. We focus on developing a love of learning and exploration, cooperation, empathy, and independence.
Our caring and experienced educators create opportunities for children 16 months to 5 years old to play, learn, and grow in a nurturing environment of child-centered and developmentally appropriate experiences.
Initially established more than 50 years ago in South Arlington, CWP continues to be a lauded program in the Northern Virginia area. We are extremely proud to have been recognized as a Best Preschool in Northern Virginia Magazine for the last 4 years.
Located now in North Arlington at 2666 Military Road, CWP offers a part-time parents day out and preschool program with options to extend care both before and after school. We offer a supportive and inclusive school community for children and parents alike and welcome all families to join our school!
The Optimist Club of Arlington is holding its 77th annual Christmas tree sale!
This year, the tree sale will be held at the Knights of Columbus (5115 Little Falls Road). The lot opens for sales on November 24th. The Optimist Club is selling small and large trees ranging from tabletop size to 10 foot tall trees! Wreaths, garland, tree stands, and White House Christmas ornaments will also be for sale.
100% of all proceeds go towards helping Arlington County youth.
For more information, please visit the Arlington Optimists website at https://optimistclubofarlingtonva.org/.
Holiday Art Show featuring artists: Peter Fitzgerald, Claire Plante, Alanna Rivera, and Suzy Scollon. At the Barcroft Community House, 800 South Buchanan St., Arlington, VA. Dec. 8 from, 2 PM to 8 PM and Dec. 9 from 10 AM to
2023 Christmas Tree Sales Begin
Saturday, December 2
Get your holiday decorating off to the right start this year! We will be selling 150 Fraser firs, freshly cut and delivered from Sparta, North Carolina.