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Bill to establish mental health alert system reports out of House committee

A bill that could reshape how law enforcement responds when someone is experiencing a mental health crisis reported out of the House Public Safety Committee on Tuesday by a vote of 13-9.

Capital News Service

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By Andrew Ringle

A bill that could reshape how law enforcement responds when someone is experiencing a mental health crisis reported out of the House Public Safety Committee on Tuesday by a vote of 13-9.

House Bill 5043, introduced by Del. Jeff Bourne, D-Richmond, would create teams of mental health service providers, peer recovery specialists and law enforcement to help individuals in a crisis situation. Formally dubbed the mental health awareness response and community understanding services, or MARCUS, alert system, the proposal is in response to ongoing demands of protesters in Richmond.

The proposed system is named after Marcus-David Peters, a 24-year-old high school biology teacher and Virginia Commonwealth University alumnus who was shot and killed by a Richmond Police officer in 2018 while unarmed and experiencing a mental health crisis.

“Out of that, his family, a wealth and host of community advocates and stakeholders came together and really started developing what’s known as the MARCUS alert system, which this bill hopefully will create,” Bourne said during the virtual committee meeting.

The bill would require the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and the Department of Criminal Justice Services to work together to create evidence-based training programs for the care teams so that they know how, Bourne said, “to effectively address, mitigate and de-escalate these situations.”

Bourne hopes the law will ensure that people who are experiencing mental health crises are met with the appropriate resources “and not just being locked up.”

“A mental health professional is going to absolutely take the lead in these situations,” Bourne said. “In lots of cases, the mere presence or sight of a uniform or police vehicle can further exacerbate or further amplify the mental health crisis.”

Princess Blanding, sister of Peters, commended Bourne and his team for spearheading the bill’s progress in the House. She called today’s committee meeting a partial victory, adding “it’s not done yet.”

“We’re very thankful for the work that Del. Jeff Bourne has been doing, and it’s not over,” Blanding said. “He knows he still has a lot of work ahead of him, and he’s up for it. He’s up for that fight.”

During the meeting, Blanding urged the delegates to support the bill and said her brother “absolutely deserved help, not death” on the day of his fatal shooting.

“When a person’s kidneys stop functioning properly, they receive dialysis if needed,” Blanding said. “When a person’s heart stops functioning properly, they receive bypass surgery if needed. But the brain is the only major organ that, when it stops functioning properly, we demonize, we incarcerate, and in the case of so many Black people, death is the final answer.”

Blanding has spoken at multiple demonstrations in Richmond since protests sparked by the death of George Floyd began in late May, demanding the city fully fund the alert system as well as establish a civilian review board to investigate allegations of police misconduct.

Citing the personal experience of a family member, Del. Carrie Coyner, R-Chesterfield, expressed concern for situations when a victim is endangered by someone experiencing a mental health crisis. She said she supports Bourne’s bill “in concept” but struggles with it from a legal perspective regarding who would respond first in a situation when someone might be harmed.

Bourne said law enforcement have “an absolute, overarching duty to protect people,” and that protection of any victims would necessitate police to respond first, but the mental health team would also be there to address the crisis. Coyner ultimately voted against the bill.

Republican delegates expressed concern over how to fund a statewide system, which will be determined when the bill is before the House Appropriations Committee.

“I’d like for us to think about what we could do to spend this money within our police departments to have somebody there with them that has the ability to be plainclothed and to do this, versus trying to organize different people from different parts,” said Del. Matt Fariss, R-Rustburg.

Bruce Cruser, executive director of Mental Health America of Virginia, spoke during the committee meeting. He said although his organization was not involved with putting forward the legislation, he “fully supports” the goals listed in the bill.

“I think this is an incredible, significant step forward in really addressing the mental health needs of our community,” Cruser said.

Senate Bill 5038, introduced by Sen. Jeremy McPike, D-Woodbridge, also seeks to establish a similar alert system. It has been rereferred to the Senate Finance and Appropriations committee.

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The Capital News Service is a flagship program of VCU’s Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture. In the program, journalism students cover news in Richmond and across Virginia and distribute their stories, photos, and other content to more than 100 newspapers, television and radio stations, and news websites.

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Crime

VIDEO: Suspect sought in serial destruction of property at downtown law firm

Security video shows the suspect outside Tavenner & Beran, PLC, located at 20 N 8th Street, on Saturday, September 19. The most recent incident occurred on September 21.

RVAHub Staff

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From Richmond Police:

Richmond Police detectives need the public’s help to identify the man in the photo and video shown here who intentionally cut the phone and internet cables to a private law firm on several occasions this year.

Security video shows the suspect outside Tavenner & Beran, PLC, located at 20 N 8th Street, on Saturday, September 19. The most recent incident occurred on September 21.

Detectives believe this suspect opened the electrical box and cut the wires inside back in January. After a lock was installed, he proceeded to cut all the wires to the electrical box again.

Anyone with information about the identity of this suspect is asked to call Fourth Precinct Detective J. Land at (804) 646-3103 or contact Crime Stoppers at (804) 780-1000 or at www.7801000.com. The P3 Tips Crime Stoppers app for smartphones may also be used.  All Crime Stoppers methods are anonymous.

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Crime

Suspect sought in downtown convenience store robbery

Richmond Police detectives need the public’s help to identify the individual in the photo who stole hundreds of dollars worth of candy from a convenience store earlier this month.

RVAHub Staff

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From Richmond Police:

Richmond Police detectives need the public’s help to identify the individual in the photo who stole hundreds of dollars worth of candy from a convenience store earlier this month.

On Sunday, September 13, an unknown male entered the BP in the 2600 block of East Main Street. He removed a garbage bag from his pants and then went to the candy aisle and filled the entire bag with candy. The suspect left the store and was last seen walking to a hatchback vehicle.

Detectives ask anyone with any information about this man’s identity to call First Precinct Detective T. Wilson at (804) 646-0672 or Crime Stoppers at 780-1000. The P3 Tips Crime Stoppers app for smart phones may also be used. All three Crime Stoppers methods of contact are anonymous.

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Downtown

2nd Street Festival releases full schedule for virtual event October 3-4

Venture Richmond Events will present new musical performances, favorite artists from past festivals, cooking demonstrations, virtual tours, neighborhood remembrances, fun family activities, and so much more.

RVAHub Staff

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The 2nd Street Festival marks its 32nd anniversary October 3-4 with a virtual event celebrating downtown’s Jackson Ward community. Venture Richmond Events will present new musical performances, favorite artists from past festivals, cooking demonstrations, virtual tours, neighborhood remembrances, fun family activities, and so much more.

Featured Festival Artists

Saturday, October 3 from 6:00 – 7:15 p.m.

Legacy Band – Don’t miss this new festival performance by one of Richmond’s favorite bands playing top hits with a mix of soul, R&B, funk and jazz. The band was originally formed by guitarist Jose Pomier and vocalist Kaila Valdez.

EU (Experience Unlimited) – A favorite past performance from the 2019 festival headliner. EU is one of the original Washington, DC Go-Go bands, fronted by founding member Gregory “Sugar Bear” Elliott.

Sports Backers Fitness Warriors and D & G Line Dancing – Let’s get up and move with fun new dance workouts with our friends at Sports Backers and D&G Line Dancing. Learn along with great instructors!

Sunday, October 4 from 5:00 – 6:15 p.m.

Desirée Roots – Hear Desirée perform some of her new jazz favorites. As a theater and jazz sensation, she has been the opening act for several internationally acclaimed jazz music entertainers throughout her career. Her repertoire includes R&B and gospel.

Remembrance of Debo Dabney – Listen in as local musicians and friends including J. Plunky Branch, Glennroy Bailey, Desirée Roots, and more share their reflections of Herbert A. Dabney, III, a dynamic and animated pianist who passed away earlier this year. Affectionately known as “Debo,” he was a beloved friend of the festival and an all-around fan favorite. His repertoire ranged from jazz, gospel, R&B, swing, blues and children’s classics. Debo performed for 31 of the festival’s 32 years.

Virginia Union University Gospel Choir – Sing, clap or hum along with the university’s gospel choir as they perform two new selections. This choir recently performed on ABC’s Good Morning America with Latin musician Jose Feliciano.

Virtual Festival Activities

Cooking Demonstrations

Chefs from popular 2nd Street Festival vendors, Croaker’s Spot and Chef MaMusu of Africanne on Main, will both prepare and share dishes through culinary demonstrations live-streamed directly into homes to capture the same delicious foods that we’ve all come to expect from the 2nd Street Festival.

Kidz Zone Fun

Young viewers will enjoy story time with Candice Smith of NBC12 News and with the Children’s Museum, and a balloon twisting demonstration by festival favorite Eddie Cook with Balloons By Extreme.

Spotlight on Jackson Ward

Gary Flowers of Walking the Ward Tours visits two popular community sites, the Maggie L. Walker statue and Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church. Also, hear remembrances from longtime residents and business owners of Jackson Ward during the live stream event. 

Get 2nd Street Ready!
Show your support before, during and after the virtual festival.

Festival Marketplace

Visit Venture Richmond’s website for a full list of your favorite 2019 2nd Street Festival Marketplace vendors to shop online before, during and after the festival weekend! 

Official Festival Poster

Purchase an official 2020 2nd Street Festival poster designed by local quilter and artist, Unicia Buster. Learn more about the artist and her festival poster design. The new poster will be unveiled on September 23, watch on Facebook Live for your chance to win a signed print! Posters will be available for sale at Plan 9 Music in Carytown or at Plan 9 Online here starting on September 24.

Radio One “2nd Street MIX” Weekend

Get ready for the festival by listening to Radio One’s “2nd Street MIX” weekend on Saturday, September 26 from 1:00pm-10:00pm and Sunday, September 27 from 12:00pm-7:00pm. Enjoy a very special MIX weekend on 99.3/105.7 KISS FM featuring your favorite artists that have played at the 2nd Street Festival over the years and your favorite DJs too! The MIX lineup will feature DJ King Tutt, DJ Drake, and DJ Lonnie B. Listen for songs by Morris Day and the Time, Average White Band, SOS Band, and many other great R & B groups!

“Show us your 2nd Street Smile” Photo Contest

From September 28 to October 4, use the #2Street hashtag to “Show us your 2nd Street Smile” and win prizes! On Facebook and Instagram, post photos of where and how you plan to watch the virtual 2nd Street Festival. Are you watching with your best friend, your furry friends, or your family? Show us your 2nd Street smile! On October 5, we’ll choose 10 winners to win $50-$100 gift cards to your favorite spots in the Jackson Ward neighborhood! Don’t forget to label your photos with #2Street to be entered to win.

Historic Jackson Ward Neighborhood

Even though we can’t be together in Jackson Ward this year, be sure to shop the Jackson Ward businesses and restaurants and tour the Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site on 2nd Street to show your support for downtown Richmond and the 2nd Street Festival. Don’t forget to wear your mask!

Ways to Watch This Year’s Virtual Festival

This year’s virtual festival is a great opportunity for families to plan gatherings and watch parties at home in a safe, fun and responsible way.

For up-to-date information, visit https://venturerichmond.com/our-events/2nd-street-festival-2020

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