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Commonwealth's Counties

Legislation Providing Local Flexibility in Marcus Alert Implementation Reported from Senate Committee

SB 361 (Stuart), as reported by the Senate Education and Health Committee, would provide local flexibility for smaller jurisdictions with respect to participation in the Marcus Alert system.  This system was created via legislation passed in special session in 2020, and generally seeks to ensure that the behavioral health system responds to behavioral health crises to the extent possible, and that when law enforcement must be the first responders, the response is specialized and informed by additional training.  As part of the 2020 legislation, localities are required to develop a plan by July 1, 2022, that outlines protocols for transferring calls from 911 to the 988 regional call centers (these protocols must integrate a framework to triage urgency that was developed by a statewide working group in 2021), protocols for law enforcement who will serve as backup to regional mobile crisis teams, and protocols for a specialized response from law enforcement when responding to a behavioral health emergency.  Localities must also outline their plans for achieving community coverage through the four-level urgency framework, with some localities expected to rely on mobile crisis teams developed through the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services and deployed on a regional basis, while others may provide additional teams to ensure faster response times.  The first five Community Services Boards were required to implement protocols and ensure community coverage by December 1, 2021, with the following five areas implementing community coverage by July 1, 2023, and additional areas implementing in 2024, 2025, and 2026, with statewide coverage achieved by July 1, 2026.

As introduced, the legislation provided that participation in the system would be optional for all localities.  The bill was amended in subcommittee to provide this flexibility for localities with populations of less than 80,000.  VACo supports this legislation and spoke in favor in subcommittee.  The Senate Education and Health Committee heard the bill on January 27, and reported it unanimously.

A companion bill in the House, HB 1191 (Ransone), has been referred to the House Public Safety Committee.

VACo Contact:  Katie Boyle

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