A child in a mental health crisis was abandoned: You’ll never guess by whom

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A child in a mental health crisis was left in a doorway in front of the Commonwealth Center for Children and Adolescents in Staunton early Saturday morning, and police are investigating, according to a spokesperson from the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Development Services.

A staff member at the Commonwealth Center told us that the child was abandoned outside the center by an officer from the Covington Police Department around 5:30 a.m. Saturday morning.

We haven’t been able to confirm that part of the story at this time, but we’re working on it.

What we have on this in terms of confirmation at the moment is this is from Meghan McGuire, the chief public relations officer for Virginia DBHDS:

“An incident occurred over the weekend where a child was dropped off at CCCA in a very unsafe manner,” McGuire said in an email on Wednesday. “We understand the incident is being investigated by the Covington Police Department, and we will assist in this investigation in any way possible. Importantly, the child is now safe and receiving treatment.”

Good news there at the end, at least.

We’ve reached out to the Covington Police Department to get more background on this story. A message to the PD has not yet been returned. We will update this story if we hear back from the department.

The child, according to the account relayed to us by the CCCA staff member who tipped us off to the story, had been screened by the Alleghany Highland Community Services Board, and there had been a determination of probable cause that the child was suffering from a mental illness, and that there was “a substantial likelihood that the person will, in the near future, cause serious physical harm to himself or others as evidenced by recent behavior causing, attempting, or threatening harm, or suffer serious harm due to his lack of capacity to protect himself from harm or to provide for his basic human needs.”

We’ve also reached out to the Alleghany Highland CSB for background on this story. A message to the CSB has not been returned. We will update the story if we do get in touch.

After the screening by the CSB, according to our tipster, the child was admitted to Alleghany Regional Hospital to await admission at one of the state’s psychiatric facilities for children.

“There was no bed available for this child at the Commonwealth Center, and no staff to admit him,” the staff member said.

It is not known why a police officer from Covington would drive the child 68.1 miles from the hospital to the CCCA facility in Staunton without having first gotten word that there was a bed available at the center.

What we’re going to describe next was, according to our tipster, caught on security video.

“The officer told the child to ‘stay,’ like a dog, and left them there in the doorway,” the tipster said. “A child in psychiatric crisis. A child who lacked the capacity to protect himself from harm.”

The situation, as described, would obviously be dangerous, given the circumstances, involving a child in a mental health crisis with concerns following an evaluation that self-harm was a “substantial likelihood.”

“The child couldn’t come into the hospital because the door is locked,” the tipster said. “It was still dark outside. Fifty yards from the doorway is a fence that separates the hospital from Interstate 81. The officer didn’t know, or care, if the child might try to run away. If they might have had something in their bag that could have used to harm themselves.

“The officer refused to wait for an administrator to come speak with him. He gave the child their belongings in a plastic grocery bag, told them not to move, and drove away. Left the hospital grounds.

“This officer neglected his sworn duty to protect one of the most vulnerable members of his own community.”

Story by Chris Graham

Chris Graham

I write books, mainly on sports, and do baseball play-by-play for ESPN3. I've finished three marathons, but I'm over that. Oh, and I'm a progressive who voted for Biden, but I'm also over that. Want to reach me? Try [email protected]