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AG pushes for settlement money to fund mental health training

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Police officers could be better trained to deal with the mentally ill if the federal government would release $800,000 of Virginia’s share of a national Medicaid fraud settlement, according to state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.

In a letter earlier this week, Cuccinelli’s office asked the Treasury office to release the money for a grant to the Department of Criminal Justice Services for training to help law enforcement officers better respond to crisis situations involving mentally ill people.

“This is an important program that will receive funding to ensure that more of our first responders get the training they need to deal with these difficult situations,” Cuccinelli said in a written statement Friday. “The added bonus is that it won’t be at the taxpayers’ expense.”

Cuccinelli said a 2011 jail survey found that one-fourth of Virginia’s inmates had mental illnesses, and nearly half of those had serious mental illnesses.

The $800,000 is a fraction of the $105 million the state still has coming for leading an investigation that resulted in Abbott Laboratories paying $1.5 million to settle allegations that it promoted an anti-seizure drug for uses not approved by the federal government. A federal judge in Abingdon approved the settlement in October.

The attorney general’s office already has received $10 million for its own use. The rest of the money will go to various public safety initiatives selected by the attorney general, but the Treasury Executive Office for Asset Forfeiture has demanded additional details on Virginia’s proposals before cutting any additional checks.

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