Check here for opportunities to offer feedback about the Marcus Alert
If you would like to offer comments about the Marcus Alert, please email them. Please make sure the subject line of your email includes "Marcus Alert comments."
The Richmond Human Rights Commission hosted and facilitated two virtual Marcus Alert Community Forums for the public to learn about the Marcus Alert, ask questions and offer comments.
Forums were conducted online via Zoom and were recorded.
A plan for improving response to mental and behavioral health crises in Virginia and Richmond
The Marcus Alert is a statewide framework intended to improve the response to mental and behavioral health crises in Virginia. The Virginia state legislation to begin to put the framework in place was signed by the governor in late 2020.
Changes as a result of the Marcus Alert began in Richmond in December 2021.
More information about the statewide Marcus Alert is here.
Members of the public are encouraged to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for mental and behavioral health help for themselves or others. They also are encouraged to complete a free emergency health profile here.
The Marcus Alert is a Virginia law named for Marcus-David Peters, a 24-year-old teacher who was killed while in a mental health crisis by a Richmond City Police officer on May 14, 2018.
It was signed into law in late 2020 by Gov. Ralph Northam, and it provides a multi-stage, phased timeline and a framework for localities to follow to improve response to mental health crises.
- Diminish the role of police in response to behavioral health crises.
- Shift primary response to qualified behavioral health professionals.
- Involve police in a supporting role, when necessary, for public safety.
- Prioritize de-escalation and non-lethal force.
- Decriminalize behavioral health crises and reduce stigma.
- Reduce arrests and traumatization; increase treatment and support.
The state Marcus Alert plan was created as a collaboration between:
- Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services
- Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services
- Other state agency partners
- Marcus Alert State Planning Stakeholder Group
The plan takes a comprehensive, systems-wide approach to reducing Virginia’s reliance on law enforcement in behavioral health emergencies.
It includes changes at the state and local levels.
Some of the key elements of the state Marcus Alert plan:
- Framework for response levels
- Mobile behavioral health crisis teams
- Option for co-response teams
- Statewide training standards
- Public education campaigns
More information about the statewide Marcus Alert plan is available here.
Some of the key elements of the Marcus Alert plan in Richmond, one of the first five regions to implement it in the State:
- Voluntary database of health profiles (Now in place. Learn more here.)
- Planning process with stakeholders
- Three protocols for response
- Community resources
- Community education
The State Marcus Alert plan requires that the localities set up regular meetings with stakeholders in the community to help with getting community input into the local Marcus Alert plan. These stakeholders were invited to virtual meetings in Richmond.
2019-2020: The Richmond internal group met with members of the Marcus-David Peters family and community advocates.
January 2021: The Richmond Marcus Alert Planning Group began meeting semi-weekly. These meetings are ongoing.
May 2021: Invited community and organizational stakeholders began meeting quarterly with the Richmond Planning Group. These meetings are ongoing.
September 2021: Members of the public were invited to learn about the Marcus Alert, ask questions and offer comments during virtual community forums. Hosted and facilitated by the Richmond Human Rights Commission, the forums were recorded.
Members of the public who were not able to attend a virtual Community Forum could email comments.
2022: The Richmond Marcus Alert Planning Group and the Richmond stakeholders group continue to meet at least twice a year to evaluate and make changes to the plan, as needed.
One of the requirements for the Virginia Marcus Alert plan is for localities to set up three protocols for response.
Protocol 1: Agreement and procedures on transferring calls from 911 to Regional Crisis Call Centers. Requires a framework for decision-making and dispatch from 911. The state plan specifies a four-level triage, from Level 1 as routine and Level 4 as emergent. The Richmond Department of Emergency Communications (DEC) began transferring lower level calls to the Regional Crisis Call Line on Dec. 1, 2021.
Protocol 2: Agreement and procedures on using law enforcement as a back-up to mobile crisis teams.
Protocol 3: Specialized procedures for law enforcement responding to behavioral health emergencies.
One of the requirements for the state Marcus Alert plan is for the localities to provide additional community resources. Here are the resources in Richmond:
Currently in place: Richmond Behavioral Health Authority Emergency Services, Residential Crisis Stabilization Unit, Crisis Triage Center, Regional Call Center
In development: Regional Mobile Crisis Teams
In development: Richmond Behavioral Health Authority 23-hour observation center
The Marcus Alert Local Planning Group submitted its plan to the state on Oct. 15, 2021.
Changes began on Dec. 1, 2021, when the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications began transferring some emergency calls for mental and behavioral health crises to the Regional Crisis Call Line, managed through a contract by the Richmond Behavioral Health Authority (RBHA.)
The Local Planning Group continues to work toward full implementation of its plan in early 2022.
The Local Planning Group will continue to meet with the Local Stakeholder Group twice a year and make adjustments and improvements as needed, based on the outcomes.
Other regions are to begin putting the Marcus Alert into place by July 2022, and all Virginia localities are to have it in place by July 2026.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255, will become 988 in July 2022.