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(Updated at 11:30 a.m.) Earlier this month, Virginia House of Delegates 2nd District candidate Kevin Saucedo-Broach dropped out of the race to take care of a family member.

But when he announced this decision, he said a recurring conversation on the campaign trail will stick with him and inform his advocacy going forward. The topic was mental health.

“The more I talked to people across Arlington, the more sure I became that Virginia’s mental health crisis is traumatizing people from all walks of life and that those people were absolutely desperate for our government to do something serious about it,” he said.

These reflections, posted on Twitter, come as Arlington County is trying to fill in gaps in Virginia’s patchwork approach to mental health care — precipitated by the closure of state psychiatric beds during the pandemic — with community-based services.

This week, it celebrated the newly renovated Crisis Intervention Center, where people in a mental health crisis can go to receive services — away from hospitals and law enforcement, who are typically on the front lines of this issue.

Now that Saucedo-Broach is out, Adele McClure, who announced her bid more than a year ago, is running unopposed in the Democratic primary this June. An early opponent, Nicole Merlene, also dropped out.

Then, McClure will run in the November general election. There is no incumbent for this new seat, encompassing Arlington’s Metro corridors, created through a recent redistricting process.

Saucedo-Broach lamented that some 80,000 Arlingtonians in the 2nd District would no longer have the opportunity to see candidates debate issues like poverty and mental health. He says that speaks poorly of Arlington.

“For a county as vibrant, diverse, and politically active as Arlington, it certainly speaks very poorly of our work as a political and organizing community that so few residents felt it worthwhile to stand for election to a band-new legislative district with an open race,” he said. “Clearly, we have a great deal of work left to do to break down systemic barriers and expand political access in Arlington County.”

McClure acknowledged the news in a post on social media asking for support, as Saucedo-Broach’s name will still appear on the ballot. She has an interactive map for residents who want to see if she could be their next representative.

She, too, says she will be an effective advocate for mental health policies because of her experience on the Arlington Community Services Board. This oversees the continuum of nonprofit- and county-provided services to people with disabilities,  substance use disorders and mental health challenges.

“We need funding to expand community-based services and must recognize that each individual is unique and has different needs — some folks suffer from co-occurring mental health, substance use, and medical treatment needs,” McClure says.

“At a time when demand for behavioral health care treatment is rising, Virginians deserve a system that has ample capacity for pediatric, adult, and elder patients across the continuum of care so that people with mental health and substance treatment needs can receive care with dignity that is free of stigma or shame,” she continues.

McClure has picked up the endorsement of Del. Alfonso Lopez, the Virginia Education Association political action committee representing Virginia teachers, U.S. Rep. Jennifer McClellan, the progressive group New Virginia Majority and pro-abortion advocacy group Repro Rising.

Meanwhile, longtime state Sen. Barbara Favola is running against lawyer James DeVita to represent the 40th District. On mental health, Favola was chief patron of a bill that passed this session requiring hospitals to provide trauma-informed security.

Tackling the twin epidemics of mental health and substance use inside the jail is top-of-mind for the candidates for Arlington County Sheriff.

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Local and state officials gathered today to celebrate the grand opening of a place where people can go if they are experiencing a behavioral health crisis.

The newly renovated Crisis Intervention Center (CIC) provides behavioral healthcare services in a community-based setting to individuals experiencing a psychiatric crisis. The location at 2120 Washington Blvd is open 24/7, 365 days per year, to people of all ages.

With the center, Arlington County aims to divert people in crisis from the emergency room and away from interactions with law enforcement — an imperfect system that was straining Arlington County Police Department, the Sheriff’s Office and local hospitals.

It comes as, in Arlington, nearly 10% of adult residents are reporting frequent mental distress, compared to 13% in all of Virginia, according to Arlington County Board Chair Christian Dorsey. In the wake of the pandemic, Northern Virginia saw a four-fold increase of adults reporting the onset of anxiety and depression symptoms, as well as one in 10 youth in the region contemplating suicide last year.

“It was critical for us to figure out, to pivot as soon as we could possibly pivot, to figure out alternatives to psychiatric hospitalizations,” Arlington County Dept. of Human Services Deputy Director Deborah Warren said during the ceremony today.

“People in a behavioral health crisis were being brought to the ER where, once they were assessed by a certified [clinician] and got a temporary detention order, they would languish for sometimes a week, or 10 days at a time — not getting care — handcuffed to a gurney and guarded by police or sheriff,” she continued.

Imagine, she continued, being paranoid, hearing voices or being significantly depressed and going to the hospital with its bright lights and cacophony of noises.

“It’s not trauma-informed,” she said. “Maybe all they need is to talk to somebody. Maybe they just need to be in a calming space and de-escalate, instead of a very stressful environment in the hospital.”

The grand opening of the CIC celebrated new ways the county Dept. of Human Services has been authorized to help people.

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Candidates for Arlington County Sheriff during a recent forum hosted by Offender Aid and Restoration (via Offender Aid and Restoration/Facebook)

All three candidates looking to replace Sheriff Beth Arthur, who retired at the end of last year, say they want to end solitary confinement.

This unifying policy position surfaced during a forum hosted by the nonprofit Offender Aid and Restoration last Thursday.

Arlington County police officer James Herring, retired sheriff lieutenant Wanda Younger and Acting Sheriff Jose Quiroz are seeking the nomination of the Arlington County Democratic Committee in the June primary.

Although unified on running a “safe and progressive” jail, including by ending solitary confinement, they had different plans for improving the physical safety and mental well-being of staff and inmates.

“We’re definitely going to remove [solitary confinement],” said Quiroz, the son of Honduran immigrants who grew up in Arlington and joined the Sheriff’s Office 21 years ago after a stint in the Marine Corps. “We’re already reviewing this. It’s not helpful, it’s not healthy and it’s not rehabilitative. It needs to go.”

Herring, a graduate of Arlington Public Schools who was a¬†police officer in D.C.’s Ward 8 before joining the Arlington County Police Department in 2019, said there are better alternatives to the practice.

“There are going to be people who will have to be separated from others because they just will not work well for whatever reason — they might have to be separated for safety reasons — but we absolutely cannot put people in holes and forget about them,” he said. “We need to connect them to mental and medical health care and keep them connected with family.”

Younger, who retired from the Sheriff’s Office after 31 years of service, said solitary confinement exacerbates mental health issues rather than contributing to an individual’s rehabilitation.

“What we need to do is focus on programs to help identify the root causes of why people act in certain ways,” she said, calling for training in trauma-informed care and in understanding common triggers of negative behaviors.

They articulated positions ARLnow previously reported on, regarding well-being in the jail, which saw seven men die while in jail. Six of the inmates were Black, which led the Arlington branch of the NAACP to push for greater transparency from the office and changes to jail operations.

Quiroz says he is bringing in biometric sensors that allow staff to respond to medical emergencies “where seconds and minutes count” and interested in the county assuming control of medical care.

ACSO ditched its former contracted medical care provider in response to a growing number of deaths in the jail, and one inmate has died since the new provider took over.

Herring argued for adding in-house psychiatrists to the existing ranks of therapists and clinicians.

“We still have to ship people across the state to actually see a psychiatrist who does not know them, their community, where they’re from or what their issue is,” he said. “Oftentimes they just load them up with meds and send them back here until they’re tranquilized enough… to carry on, and the cycle repeats.”

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Emergency response on scene in Shirlington

There’s a large emergency response in Shirlington following reports of an armed man suffering a mental health crisis.

Numerous police units are on scene, along with medics standing by, due to the incident on the 4200 block of Campbell Avenue. Some roads in the Shirlington Village area have been blocked during the response.

An Arlington County police spokeswoman confirmed the incident, which started around 2 p.m.

“Police remain on scene investigating,” said ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage.

Update at 3:50 p.m. — The situation has been resolved and officers are now leaving the scene, according to police.

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The Arlington Public Schools Syphax Education Center (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

There has been a mini-spate of deaths and reported suicide attempts among Arlington Public Schools students in the last month, ARLnow has learned.

A middle schooler died after Christmas and a high schooler died in mid-January, according to sources in the school community.

Medics have been dispatched to Arlington schools a number of times since the end of winter break, for suicide attempts, overdoses and other substance abuse issues among students, according to scanner traffic. In one instance, medics were dispatched twice in one day to the same school for reports of suicide attempts through taking pills.

“Based on anecdotal information — reports from principals and Student Services personnel — we do remain concerned about the needs of our students and how they are handling the multiple impacts to their lives and how those are manifesting themselves in some of their choices, behaviors and statements around mental health,” Darrell Sampson, APS Executive Director of Student Services, tells ARLnow.

He couldn’t comment on specific cases, citing privacy concerns.

These incidents are part of a broader trend upward in mental health needs among children. Sampson says during the 2021-22 school year, APS saw a “significantly higher” number of suicide risk assessments compared with the 2020-21 academic year. Meanwhile, clinicians with Arlington County Dept. of Human Services reported seeing more students exhibiting self-harming behaviors.

Generally, he said, school mental health professionals are seeing students struggling to navigate stressful life experiences because they have fewer past social interactions to draw from due to pandemic-era isolation. APS ended in-person learning in the spring of 2020 and resumed in-person instruction for all students midway through the 2021-22 school year.

“You have kids… who have missed out on years of being able to build those resiliency skills and social-emotional competencies through everyday experiences,” he said. “Now, they’re back in school and they’re experiencing the same things our students have always experienced in school — whether that’s struggles with a class, or with friends, or struggles with everyday experiences — and their bag of skills is just not at all [equipped] and when things happen in our lives that are stressful it can impact them in more intense ways.”

Elizabeth Hughes, the senior director for research at the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia, tells ARLnow mental health is worsening among children in the entire Northern Virginia region. She will be releasing detailed findings next Wednesday.

Some 37% of public high school students experienced recent symptoms of clinical anxiety and depression last winter and 34% reported past-year persistent sadness, according to her forthcoming report.

One in 10 high schoolers seriously contemplated suicide over the past year, with comparably high rates among middle school students. Just under one in two high school students in the region had past or recent mental health needs.

She says the pandemic only accelerated a longer upward trend in anxiety, persistent worry, sadness and loss of interest among teens.

“The [American Academy of Pediatrics] has declared a national emergency around children’s mental health, but the word ’emergency’ feels so much more ephemeral than what we are seeing,” she said. “More youth than ever need help, yes. But this story is so much bigger than the aftershocks of a pandemic.”

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The following was funded, in part, by the ARLnow Press Club. Become a member today and support in-depth local reporting.

In Arlington and across the state, hospital emergency rooms are filling up with people in mental health crises, often handcuffed to gurneys and attended by law enforcement officers.

People in these situations can’t walk around, save to go to the bathroom, and they can’t see their families. They may be calm or exhibiting aggressive behaviors; they might be hearing voices or may not have eaten in days because they believe their food is poisoned.

Whatever the case, they are in the emergency room because local clinicians determined they are a danger to themselves or others or unable to care for themselves, and need to be treated by specialized staff in a hospital.

Magistrates placed them under the civil custody of law enforcement officers, who have to stay with them until ER nurses can conduct a basic physical exam and clear them to go to that hospital’s behavioral health ward, where they will receive additional treatment.

That is how it should work.

But a statewide shortage of adult psychiatric beds means people in crisis — and under either an eight-hour emergency custody orders (ECOs) or 72-hour temporary detention orders (TDOs) — could wait hours under the eye of law enforcement for medical clearance while local social workers call every hospital in the state searching for beds. Once beds are located, police will drive their charges there — sometimes up to five hours away.

The shortage is straining Virginia’s mental health care system, which is held up by dwindling ranks of under-resourced clinicians, nurses and law enforcement working overtime.

“You do wonder, how much is this helping this person as opposed to hurting someone?” said police officer James Herring, who is running for Arlington County Sheriff. “This ‘help’ feels very, ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.’ That’s not what any of us wants, but it’s the way the system has evolved.”

The current crisis is a result of the state’s decision in 2021 to close most state psychiatric hospitals, which were understaffed due to low wages, hazardous working conditions and Covid. This took some 260 psychiatric beds offline, resulting in people across the state being diverted to remaining state facilities, including Northern Virginia Mental Health Institute, where many Arlington patients go.

The bed shortage has prompted Arlington County law enforcement agencies, the Dept. of Human Services and Community Services Board and VHC Health — the new name of Virginia Hospital Center — to work together to move away from a system that they say causes trauma and pulls officers away from important duties and toward a community-based continuum of care.

Just yesterday (Tuesday), VHC announced it will be building a facility dedicated to behavioral health at its former urgent care facility at 601 S. Carlin Springs Road.

“The crisis with the state hospital beds has forced us, locally and regionally, to bust our butt to come up with [ways to] help people who are in crisis,” says Deborah Warren, the executive director of the Arlington Community Services Board and the DHS Deputy Director.

Other events threw these systemic issues into relief, too, Warren says. The Richmond police shooting of Marcus-David Peters, who was having a psychotic episode, demonstrated the risk of police responding to a behavioral health problem while pandemic-era isolation has made mental illnesses more acute.

“It’s true for every population and age band,” Warren said. “People aren’t doing well, post-pandemic… Anybody can go into a behavioral health crisis… It’s neurotypical people who are overwhelmed and overrun with feelings of anxiety and depression… People are more self-destructive. It’s gut-wrenching.”

Last year, the Virginia legislature directed the state Dept. of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services to discuss alternatives to police transportation, with stakeholders that included Arlington police, says ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage. The workgroup came up with the idea for the Prompt Placement Task Force, which brings together government agencies, public and private hospitals, law enforcement and community partners to address the crisis.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced the creation of this task force, of which Warren is a member, in December 2022. The goal is to come up with solutions that could be enacted this legislative session.

But the problem won’t get better until every locality has more services upstream, said state Sen. Barbara Favola, who noted Arlington has “more community-based care than most parts of the state.”

“Virginia has more people in psych beds than need to be there because we don’t have a community-based network to release them into care,” she said.

A whiteboard at Arlington County’s Crisis Intervention Center (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Getting by 

Historically, Virginia mostly funded state facilities and wealthy jurisdictions in Northern Virginia, like Arlington County, applied local tax dollars to their community services boards, explains Warren. But as evidenced by the current crisis, even Arlington has room to improve.

“We have a long way to go, and the state has a long way to go,” she said.

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VHC Health could break ground on a new mental health and rehabilitation facility at its old urgent care facility on S. Carlin Springs Road as soon as this year.

Arlington County and VHC Health — the new name of Virginia Hospital Center — announced a joint agreement this afternoon to expand behavioral health and rehab services through the proposed project at 601 S. Carlin Springs Road.

The new facility would have 72 beds dedicated to mental health and substance use recovery. This consists of a 24-bed adult unit, a 24-bed youth unit, a 24-bed “recovery and wellness unit” and five outpatient programs,¬†according to a county announcement.

It will have 40 beds set aside for people with brain and spinal cord injuries, those recovering from strokes and those with neurological and other conditions. Currently, the main VHC campus has 20 beds for patients with these needs.

“We are grateful for our continued partnership with VHC Health in developing facilities to meet the healthcare needs of the Arlington community,” County Board Chair Christian Dorsey said in a statement. “With the growing demand, mental health services continue to be a priority. We remain committed to expanding capacity and offering services and support for individuals experiencing behavioral health challenges and their families.”

The chair of the VHC Health Board of Directors, Dr. Russell E. McWey, said this expansion of mental health services “has been a long-time priority for the Board and for VHC Health.”

“The Board is pleased to continue serving our community and to champion this facility and advocate for those who are in need in and around Arlington County,” he said in his statement.

The new S. Carlin Springs Road facility will house five programs: intensive outpatient programs for adults and children, a recovery and wellness intensive outpatient program, an adult partial hospitalization program and an outpatient behavioral health clinic.

VHC had originally intended to add a behavioral health unit to its main campus expansion, Deborah Warren, the executive director of the Arlington Community Services Board and the DHS Deputy Director, told ARLnow. Now, per the announcement, the hospital will instead build a 14-bed geriatric behavioral health unit.

The expansion comes as Arlington, Northern Virginia and Commonwealth as a whole are seeing two trends: deepening mental health needs and greater competition for limited healthcare resources.

Advocates have called the current state of mental health care in Virginia a crisis, one prompted by the state’s decision in 2021 to close most state psychiatric hospitals, which were understaffed due to low wages, hazardous working conditions and Covid.

The closures created a bottleneck at remaining facilities and forced private hospitals, including Virginia Hospital Center, to take in more patients. Sometimes, patients are brought to the hospital by law enforcement, and until they are able to be treated, are left to wait in the emergency room — handcuffed to a gurney under the watch of a law enforcement officer. This situation has contributed to burnout for county social workers and police officers.

In response, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced late last year the formation of a task force to come up with ways to remove law enforcement from this process and ensure people get the help they need. VHC Health CEO and President Chris Lane lauded this move in today’s statement.

“VHC Health applauds the Governor and the General Assembly for their commitment to addressing Virginia’s behavioral health crisis and this joint venture will contribute to the Commonwealth’s objective of treating behavioral wellness,” Lane said. Read More

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A new bridge in Glencarlyn Park (courtesy Dennis Dimick)

Update at 4 p.m. on 3/15/22 — President Joe Biden has signed a $1.5 trillion spending bill with funding for three projects in Arlington.¬†

In the 10 months it took for the funding to pass, Arlington County substantially completed two of the projects: repaving parts of the Bluemont Junction Trail and replacing a pedestrian bridge in Glencarlyn Park.

The county moved forward with them in the interim due to safety concerns and the uncertain nature of federal funding, Department of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish told ARLnow on Tuesday.

The funding will pay for any remaining work and Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) is considering how to repurpose any unspent funds on similar projects, she said. 

Earlier: A $1.5 trillion spending bill that cleared Congress on Friday has funding for three projects in Arlington.

The bill includes $13.6 billion in emergency aid for Ukraine’s fight against Russia and will fund the federal government through September, avoiding an impending government shutdown. Now the 2,741-page bill is headed to the desk of President Joe Biden, who is expected to sign it this week.

The bill also sends Arlington County more than $1.4 million to pay for a health initiative and two parks projects, for which Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) requested federal assistance last May. In total, the spending package has $5.4 million earmarked for 10 projects in Northern Virginia, at Beyer’s request.

“This funding will translate to significant, beneficial projects in Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church and Fairfax County,” he said in a statement on Friday. “I am thankful to my colleagues who enacted the legislation to fund these initiatives, and to the local leaders who worked with me to identify and develop the initial requests. These projects will make a real, positive difference in our region.”

Arlington County’s Department of Human Services is getting $390,000 to purchase two medically equipped vehicles for a forthcoming mobile crisis response team. While not yet in existence, the team will be responsible for responding to behavioral health crises and providing on-site treatment.

The team was a recommendation of the Police Practices Group, which identified about 100 ways policing could be reformed in Arlington, including some ways the county could remove police officers from its mental health crisis response.

The county earmarked $574,000 in the current budget to staff the team with a physician’s assistant, nurse and clinician, and to buy a transport van and operating supplies.

DHS spokesman Kurt Larrick says the vehicles will be purchased once the County Board officially accepts and allocates the federal funding, which will take a couple of months. The mobile crisis response team, meanwhile, is “not up and running yet,” he said.

“County residents do have access to Community Regional Crisis Response services, however, which is a mobile crisis response,” he said. “And our Emergency Services staff can and do go into the community when need arises and staffing allows.”

The county will receive $325,000 to fund repaving and repairs for a segment of the Bluemont Junction Trail and adjacent connector paths. A 2018 trails assessment determined the Bluemont Junction Trail needed significant investments, as the condition of the asphalt is deteriorating in many sections.

The section paid for by the federal government spans the intersection of N. George Mason Drive and Wilson Blvd to the intersection of the trail with the Washington & Old Dominion Trail.

This project is divided into two phases, according to the county. The first phase, completed late last year, updated the main trail and most of its connecting paths. The second phase will update three remaining trail connectors, which need to be realigned to be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Phase two construction is expected to begin and end this spring and early summer.

Arlington budgeted $550,000 in its 2022-24 Capital Improvements Plan for the project.

The county will also receive $800,000 for the replacement of a pedestrian bridge in Glencarlyn Park. The bridge, lost during the July 2019 flash flooding, was recently installed. The project was part of the adopted 2021 Capital Improvements Plan.

Outside of Arlington, local earmarks in the bill will support storm sewer and climate resilience improvements in the City of Alexandria and Falls Church City and improve information technology services in Fairfax County. It will also support a pilot program for the deployment of body-worn cameras in the Alexandria Police Department and safety improvements to the GW Parkway.

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Arlington 911 dispatcher at the county’s Emergency Communications Center (via Arlington County)

Arlington County is developing an alert system aimed at improving its emergency response to behavioral health crises.

The aim of the system, dubbed the Marcus Alert, is to keep people in crisis — due to a mental illness, substance use disorder or intellectual and developmental disabilities — from being arrested and booked in jail.

It comes from the Marcus-David Peters Act, which was signed into law in late 2020 and is named for Marcus-David Peters, a 24-year-old biology teacher who was killed by a police officer in 2018 while experiencing a mental health crisis.

Once operational, the system would transfer people who call 911 or 988 — a new national suicide and mental health crisis hotline — to a regional call center where staff determine whether to de-escalate the situation over the phone, dispatch a mobile crisis unit or send specially trained law enforcement.

Last summer, Arlington began developing its Marcus Alert plan, a draft of which needs to be submitted to the state by May 22. It’s asking residents to share their experiences with the county’s current behavioral health crisis response via an anonymous and voluntary survey open through mid-March.

Locals can also email the county to sign up to participate in focus groups, which will convene in early- to mid-March.

State law requires that the county’s final plan be implemented by July 1.

Arlington’s timeline for the Marcus Alert (via Arlington County)

“We are hopeful that with the Marcus Alert and increased community outreach and co-response, we will see a reduction in arrests of people with [serious mental illnesses],” Suzanne Somerville, the bureau director of residential and specialized clinical services for Arlington’s Department of Human Services, tells ARLnow. “The system is tremendously strained at this time and hospitalization for people that need it for psychiatric symptoms is not always easy to attain.”

DHS attributes the strain to COVID-19 and a lack of beds in state-run mental hospitals after the Commonwealth closed more than half of these hospitals to new admissions amid its own workforce crisis. This overwhelmed local hospitals and the Arlington County Police Department, and drove fatigued DHS clinicians and Arlington police officers to quit.

“Everyone is trying to do the right thing and get the client the services they need and deserve and we just don’t have the resources currently,” said Aubrey Graham, the behavioral health program manager for the Arlington County jail.

Bed shortages also impact court hearings, as many inmates with mental illnesses require competency restoration services to understand court proceedings and work with their defense attorney. Graham says inmates must go to Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services state hospitals, which limits beds even more.

Compared to other jurisdictions, Arlington sends proportionately more people to Western State Hospital for competency restoration, per data ARLnow requested from DBHDS. It also saw the greatest increase in admission rates between 2020 and 2021.

Competency restoration rates (courtesy of DBHDS)

Graham says she doesn’t know of any studies that explain why Arlington sees so many individuals with serious mental illnesses, but geography plays a role, as about 70% of people sent to state hospitals come from D.C., Maryland and other parts of Virginia. Only about 30% of those sent to state hospitals from Arlington are actually Arlington residents.

“Although there are a high number of competency evaluations requested in Arlington courts, the referrals are entirely appropriate, and most are deemed incompetent to stand trial,” Graham said.

That’s why police should not arrest them in the first place, says Chief Public Defender Brad Haywood, adding that people with mental illnesses are over-represented in the county jail, which is seeing a¬†continued inmate deaths and may not have the resources to treat the needs of the mentally ill.

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County Board member Matt de Ferranti on Saturday, Feb. 12 (via Arlington County)

Arlington County Board member Matt de Ferranti says he has lots of questions for the county’s criminal justice system after an inmate died in the county jail two weeks ago.

On Saturday, he released a statement committing to figuring out why Paul Thompson, a homeless man arrested for trespassing at a place from which he was previous banned, died in the Arlington County Detention Center earlier this month. He also committed to avoiding preventable deaths at the jail.

“Typically, a number of state agencies — the Magistrate, the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office, and the Public Defender’s office and our Judges — along with the Arlington County Police Department and the Department of Human Services all have a role in cases like Mr. Thompson’s,” he said. “In my oversight role as a Board Member, I share in the responsibility to make sure we are doing everything we can.”

On Feb. 1, Thompson became the seventh man in seven years to die in the custody of the Sheriff’s Office. Six of the seven have been Black.

The Arlington branch of the NAACP has been sounding the alarm on in-custody deaths in part because of their disproportionate impact on men of color since the 2020 death of Darryl Becton.

“We are failing men of color [and] we are failing people who are homeless in this community,” said Juliet Hiznay, an education and disability rights attorney and a member of the NAACP, during the County Board meeting on Saturday.

Last fall, the ongoing investigation into Becton’s death led to charges filed against a man police say falsified a patient record. It also prompted the Sheriff’s Office to change its jail-based medical provider, which was finalized within 24 hours of Thompson’s death.

And now, the death of Thompson — who did not have a criminal history but did suffer from a mental illness, Sheriff Beth Arthur told WTOP — is prompting greater scrutiny from the Arlington County Board.

“There will be follow-up in the coming weeks through the County Manager, and I personally will be following up in the short term,” de Ferranti tells ARLnow. “We do have to focus on solutions, and that’s why, I’ll be engaging with staff and subject-matter experts on this.”

Thompson’s death is being investigated by Arlington police and an autopsy is still pending, the Virginia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said today (Monday).

De Ferranti said he looks forward to answers to the following questions.
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Morning Notes

An artist paints inside Palette 22 in Shirlington (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Fallon Sings About Pentagon Chicken — “That stroke of social media brilliance was followed by even more exposure as ‘The Tonight Show’ host Jimmy Fallon wrote a song for the bold bird. It began with the lyrics ‘Are you just a clucker or an undercover spy?’ We do not expect the Pentagon to answer.” [WTOP, Twitter, Facebook]

WBJ Calls Out Crystal City Erasure — “On Jan. 18, JBG Smith Properties announced it has started construction on a pair of multifamily towers at 2000 and 2001 S. Bell St., a block south of the Crystal City Metro station. In, I dare say, the heart of Crystal City. But in that 750-word press release, “Crystal City” does not appear. Not once. ‘National Landing,’ meanwhile, appears seven times.” [Washington Business Journal]

More on School Mask Judge — “The Arlington judge who dealt a blow Friday to Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s executive order making masks optional in schools is married to an Arlington teacher, but attorneys for Youngkin (R) and the school boards did not believe she should have recused herself.” [Washington Post]

More On Eyeglass Smash and Grabs — “Five men with hoods and heavy coats cased the store for about five minutes, Abbasi said, then smashed open the display cases holding Cartier, Gucci and Dior glass frames and made off with about $60,000 worth of merchandise. Surveillance video shows the five bandits rapidly shoveling the high-dollar frames into plastic bags while Abbasi is yelling at them and calling police, leaving a patina of shattered glass chunks in their wake.” [Washington Post]

‘Mental Health Crisis’ at County Jail — “Sheriff Beth Arthur said the man, Paul Thompson, should not have been there, pointing out he had no criminal history. But she admits he did suffer from mental illness like most of the county’s inmates… Of the 280 current inmates, some 170 have mental health challenges; 66 of them are serious. Even the longtime sheriff wants to know why the county is ‘dumping these people in jail when they need serious care.'” [WTOP]

Metro Budget Meeting Tonight in Courthouse — “Beginning Monday, February 7, Metro will hold the first of three public hearings for people to weigh in on Metro’s Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23) budget. Hearings will be held next week and will provide for both virtual and in person public participation options.” [WMATA]

Beyer Challenger Launches Primary Bid — “An intra-party challenger to U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D-8th) kicked off her campaign Feb. 2 with a singular plea to Arlington Democrats. ‘Give me a chance,’ Victoria Virasingh asked during a kickoff speech… An Arlington native, Virasingh – who did not level any criticism at Beyer or even mention him by name in her remarks – said her goal was to create ‘a community that is rich and thriving and has opportunity for all of us.'” [Sun Gazette]

It’s Monday — A slight chance of snow and freezing rain today before 9 a.m., then a slight chance of rain and snow after that. Otherwise partly sunny, with a high near 45. Sunrise at 7:07 a.m. and sunset at 5:37 p.m. Mostly sunny tomorrow, with a high near 43. [Weather.gov]

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