(WFXR)– A Covington police officer is accused of leaving a child, while in crisis, in the doorway of a mental hospital in Staunton.
In an email, an employee at the Commonwealth Center for Children and Adolescents (CCCA) stated that at 5:30 a.m. on Saturday, May 14, a police officer from the Covington Police Department dropped a child off at the facility.
According to that employee, the child was screened by the Alleghany Highlands Community Services Board.
“Per Va Code, there was ‘probable cause to believe that (this) individual has a mental illness and that, as a result of mental illness, there is a substantial likelihood that the person will, in the near future, cause serious physical harm to himself or others as evidenced by recent behavior causing, attempting, or threatening harm, or suffer serious harm due to his lack of capacity to protect himself from harm or to provide for his basic human needs,'” wrote the employee.
The employee also stated, “This child was safe in a bed at Alleghany Regional Hospital as the CSB was trying to secure an admission for them at one of Virginia’s psychiatric facilities for children.”
According to the email, the employee said that the officer drove the child from the hospital to Staunton and abandoned them in the doorway of the CCCA. The officer reportedly refused to wait for an administrator to come to speak with him, gave the child their belongings, and drove away.
However, that hospital had no available bed for the child and no staff to admit him.
“The child couldn’t come into the hospital because the door is locked. It was still dark outside. Fifty yards from the doorway is a fence that separates the hospital from Interstate 81,” according to the employee.
State Sen. Creigh Deeds (D-Bath) confirmed the incident with the Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Disability Services Nelson Smith during a meeting on Tuesday, May 17 in Richmond.
“That child was taken 75 miles from Low Moor to Staunton and dropped off with their belongings in a plastic bag and the child was told, like a dog or an animal of any kind, ‘don’t move’. Unacceptable,” said Deeds.
WFXR News has reported several times on the issue of law enforcement having to help in mental health situations, sitting for hours or days.
“Now, what we need to figure out is why the police officer did what he did,” said Deeds. “I mean this is a big issue, you know, for many months or years, especially during the pandemic, police officers have been asked to wait for hours sometimes days.”
WFXR News reached out to the Covington Police Department about the reported incident.
Covington Police Chief Christopher J. Smith released the following statement:
“On Saturday, May 14, 2022, the Covington Division of Police received a complaint in reference to a Temporary Detention Order transport to a state mental facility that involved a juvenile. Based from the initial complaint made, the Chief of Police initiated an internal review on Monday, May 16, 2022. A thorough review will be completed in accordance with Department policy and the Code of Virginia.”Covington Police Chief Christopher J. Smith
“We’ve got to learn from that incident to make sure that what happens in the future is likely to prevent future incidents like this from occurring,” said Deeds.
The state senator says changes need to be made on the state level.