Mental health professional comments on officer-involved shooting

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Mental health professionals say the type of custody order involved in Wednesday’s fatal shooting of a Norfolk man by police is commonplace.

Donna Harris-Rowe, a licensed professional counselor with Chesapeake Integrated Behavioral Healthcare, said an emergency custody order is used to get someone evaluated for mental illness. She said when police enforce emergency custody orders, as the Norfolk officer did at Calvary Towers on Virginia Beach boulevard, they need to prepare for anything.

“The nature of getting an [emergency custody order] has the implication that there’s dangerous behavior, even against the person themselves or against someone else,” Harris-Rowe said. “So, as soon as we hear the term ‘ECO,’ we automatically expect that there’s an element of danger.”

Norfolk police say 72-year-old Lawrence Faine pulled a knife, so the officer shot and killed him. Had he been taken into custody, clinicians would have just four to six hours to evaluate him. Harris-Rowe said the interview would take about an hour, and could be at a magistrate’s office, police station, hospital or other location.

“Depending on what’s going on with that individual, how dangerous the situation may be, we would designate the place where we would meet the officer,” she said.

The person would have to answer a series of questions so that clinicians could make a judgment regarding his or her mental state.

“Are they able to tell you the month, the day, the year?” Harris-Rowe said. “Do they know their name? Do they know where they are?”

If the person gets past the basics, the questions begin to address whether they might be psychotic.

“Are they hallucinating? Are they hearing voices? If so, are they commanding in nature? Are they telling them to do things to harm other people? Is there a delusional quality? Do they believe they are somebody that they really are not?” Harris-Rowe said.

If the person is deemed dangerously unstable, clinicians can commit them to a state facility for further diagnosis and treatment.

A new law taking effect on July 1 will create a database to show mental health professionals where beds are available across the Commonwealth for people in dire need of mental health treatment. It will also extend the window of time clinicians have to make a mental health evaluation.

The new law comes in the wake of the knife attack on state Senator Creigh Deeds by his son in November, 2013. Gus Deeds committed suicide that same day.

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