FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
ABINGDON, VA (June 19, 2020): This week, Highlands Community Services (HCS) celebrates the first anniversary of the opening of the Crisis Intervention Team Assessment Center (CITAC). A joint collaborative of HCS, Washington County, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office and Ballad Health, the center has had a successful first year of operations.
“This program is designed to be a bridge between behavioral health crisis situations, law enforcement interventions and emergency room medical screenings. We have exceeded our first-year targets and saved approximately 550 hours of law enforcement time — while reducing emergency room visits and hours of bed space occupancy — allowing us to serve 198 individuals in a calming environment that offers the opportunity to mitigate crisis concerns, begin safety planning and ultimately get these individuals the help they need to get back to their homes and community,” said Kandace Miller-Phillips, Director of Crisis Services at HCS.
The CITAC program at HCS is one of 38 in the state and requires the collaboration of all law enforcement and health system partners to be effective. HCS is the first CITAC in Virginia to successfully partner with the Virginia State Police allowing us to serve an even broader set of partners and citizens. HCS also partners with the Bristol City Jail, Southwest Virginia Regional Jail Authority and the Southwest Virginia Criminal Justice Training Academy. HCS also provided two 40-hour classes of specialized behavioral health awareness and intervention training to law enforcement across the region during this inaugural year of the program.
Moving forward, program modifications will occur to further enhance operations. “We appreciate the support and assistance of Washington County and the Sheriff’s Office to launch this important program. Starting with our next fiscal year, we will shift to an existing stakeholder agency, and the Abingdon Police Department will become the operations partner for the law enforcement side of the program. The Washington County Sheriff’s Office will have the opportunity to participate as a stakeholder alongside the entities already mentioned, the townships of Damascus and Glade Spring and the City of Bristol,” said Byron Ashbrook, CIT Coordinator at HCS and 17-year law enforcement veteran.
“The Abingdon Police Department is excited about being involved in this successful program. It is an opportunity for us to better serve those who are in crisis and is an essential part of our continued commitment to our community,” said Jon Holbrook, Police Chief at Abingdon Police Department.
Holbrook, officially appointed as the new police chief this week, is a 16-year veteran of the department and longstanding member of the community — having grown up and lived in Southwest Virginia his whole life.
Miller-Phillips notes, “Our partnership with local law enforcement plays a vital role in the overall success of the program. Their efforts help decriminalize behavioral health and improve the safety of citizens and officers in what are often challenging and confusing situations. The education, understanding and preparation of CIT trained officers continue to be key elements that ensure people are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve and — at the end of the day — enables them to return home to their loved ones and their community.”
CITAC is open 7 days per week, 365 days per year. The operational hours are Monday – Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., Thursday – Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturday – Sunday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Law enforcement referral of participants is a program requirement.
Above Photo: Jon Holbrook, Police Chief at Abingdon Police Department; Rebecca Holmes, Executive Director at HCS; Kandace Miller-Phillips, Director of Crisis Services at HCS; Byron Ashbrook, CIT Coordinator at HCS.
Highlands Community Services is a multi-faceted Community Service Board providing mental health, substance use and developmental services to the residents of Washington County and Bristol, Virginia. Serving thousands of individuals each year, their goal is to provide a full continuum of care and to increase access to innovative behavioral health services by “improving lives and discovering possibilities” along the way. To learn more, visit HighlandsCSB.org.