As Senior Vice President of Threat and Violence Risk Management at Hillard Heintze, I work closely with federal, state and local law enforcement colleagues related to workplace violence prevention for our clients. I provide advice and guidance once we have developed sufficient information that a subject of concern is deemed a threat or violence risk. These subjects display an inappropriate interest in one of our clients, executives, employees or their workplaces. In these types of cases, we try to ascertain whether the individual has the motive and means to develop or act on an opportunity to attack one of our clients. Our firm is often able to gather information that greatly enhances violence prevention against our clients in ways that law enforcement does not have the bandwidth to develop.
A Case Study: The Hillard Heintze Solution
Recently, one of our clients contacted us alleging the spouse of one of their executives had been exhibiting violent behavior due to untreated mental health issues. A domestic violence restraining order had been obtained and the subject was not allowed near his home. The subject was incarcerated by local law enforcement when he approached and damaged his home over the recent holidays in clear violation of the restraining order.
When we were called in after the incarceration, the subject was scheduled to be released on $500 bail. More importantly, there was no mental health treatment plan for the subject. Correctional officials agreed with our initial assessment that the subject was in dire need of mandatory mental health treatment, but their current judicial system rarely issued such orders out of hesitation to infringe on a defendant’s due process and privacy.
Leveraging Close Relationships
As I mentioned in my blog, The Importance of a Social System: Learning from Fort Lauderdale, information from those close to a subject can provide valuable insight. In this specific case, we reached out to a close friend of the subject who reported that his friend had previously used his computer to research how to kill undercover police officers. Through our intervention with this important piece of information, law enforcement correctional officials were able to persuade the presiding judge to raise the bail to $2 million. The law enforcement personnel involved in this case further corroborated our recommendation that continued incarceration would not help the subject improve his condition and would instead increase his risk of violence. Within days of being incarcerated, he attempted to bribe a fellow inmate to kill the executive. Due to this serious nature of this misconduct while incarcerated and combined with our urging and intervention, the subject was involuntarily committed to a state mental health hospital to receive the treatment that he so desperately needed.
Virginia Making Strides in the Right Direction
I was encouraged by a recent article on the Washington Post Editorial Board about how Virginia Governor Terry McAulife, while facing a projected budget deficit, singled out mental health care as one major area for which he is seeking new funding this year.
I wholeheartedly agree with this editorial which cites the governor’s efforts as well as corrections officials and advocates for the mentally ill who argue that jail is the wrong place for people whose infractions are often minor and who need treatment and supervised housing options rather than incarceration. The governor’s proposed new spending will help state mental hospitals increase security, provide more beds and hire more staff for the state’s 40 regional agencies. These regional agencies, known as community service ports, provide frontline screening and crisis services for people struggling with mental illness.
A Big Shortage
Virginia is not the only state that is facing a shortage of beds in mental hospitals, and it can have dire consequences as Virginia State Senator Creigh Deeds is painfully aware. As Deeds shared on 60 Minutes, his son was turned away from a psychiatric hospital due to a bed shortage. Shortly thereafter, he attacked his father and committed suicide. I believe our client’s case may have had similar tragic consequences had they not reached out to our firm to help manage the situation.