Virginia’s mental health agency said Tuesday that is awarding a two-year, $7 million contract to a global security company to provide transportation to people experiencing a mental health crisis.

G4S is expected to provide transportation for about half of the people who are under temporary detention orders. Last year, more than 25,000 such orders were issued by magistrates in Virginia, and in all but a few instances, law enforcement officers transported the adults and children, sometimes in handcuffs, according to the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services.

“An individual experiencing a mental health crisis, especially one under a TDO, is already in an intensely stressful situation,” Secretary of Health and Human Resources Daniel Carey said in a news release. “This trauma-informed approach will help reduce the impact of that and promote potential paths for recovery.”

The alternative transportation is also expected to free up law enforcement officers, who can be required to drive patients to psychiatric hospitals in other regions of the state.

G4S said on its website that it is the largest secure global outsourcing company, with 600,000 employees in 90 countries. It said it has more than 100 offices in the U.S. that employ 40,000. It said it reported $7.2 billion in profits last year.

Virginia’s mental health department said that it evaluated G4S’s experience in providing transportation in other states, and that the company will have regionally based transportation services with staff trained in working with people in a behavioral health crisis. The workers will be unarmed and use secure, unmarked vehicles.

The department in 2015 created a pilot program in the Mount Rogers Community Services Board’s Southwest Virginia region to provide alternate transportation. About 40% of the individuals under a temporary detention order were transported by Steadfast Security during the one-year project, the department said.

The new program is expected to begin this summer.

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Luanne Rife writes about the businesses, policies, discoveries and inventions that affect the health of people living in southwestern Virginia.

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