Fairfax County to expand program to respond to mental health crises

Steps are being taken to expand Fairfax County’s ability to help those in the midst of a mental health crisis.

The strategy arrives as the investigation continues into a deadly officer-involved shooting in McLean last month.

Fairfax County Supervisor Rodney Lusk says he’d like to hire new clinicians right now. But he says it’s not that easy and work is being done to expand the new efforts.

"We have one of the family members here having a bit of a psychotic break," a family friend of Jasper Aaron Lynch can be heard saying in a 911 call made on July 7th.

The caller was concerned for Lynch’s safety.

Officers responded to the first call at the home on the 6900 block of Arbor Lane with a clinician, but nearly an hour and a half later when police arrived for a second call a crisis specialist was not available.

"We get him evaluated and up to a clinician if they want to keep him but be aware that’s kind of a bridge we can’t cross back because some people don’t like the police," one of the police officer’s responding to the call can be heard saying in the bodycam video.

RELATED: Family criticizes Fairfax Co. police for fatally shooting man suffering from mental health crisis

Recently, Police Chief Kevin Davis said the reason a crisis specialist was not on the second call was because there's only one clinician on staff.

The county has responded to 6,700 service calls so far this year, about 33 a day, involving people having a mental or behavioral health crisis — heightening the need for this program.  

"They understand how to deal with these type of situations, and they know how to deescalate those circumstances because if someone is in a full-on panic or having a really bad episode you need to have experience to know how to deal with that," Lusk said.

Lusk couldn’t comment on the ongoing Lynch investigation, but did offer insight on how the program should work.

"I think the second call would’ve had to be triaged like the first call," he said.

"I would say 'yes, the expectation is we would have an opportunity to identify if there is a mental health and substance abuse issue, and we would have a co-responder response for that particular incident."

READ MORE: Man charged officers swinging bottle before deadly police-involved shooting in McLean

In the county's most recent budget, about $2.6 million was approved to secure 26 additional staff members to help with mental health calls.

Lusk says they are working as quickly as possible to find the right people. 

FOX 5 did reach out to the Lynch family to ask their thoughts on this program.

In a previously released statement they said that if they had known police would have used lethal force, they would have waited until a crisis specialist was able to respond to them.

However, they had no comment at this time.