RICHMOND, Va. (AP) 鈥 John Clair, the police chief of a small Appalachian town in southwest Virginia, spends his days consumed by a growing problem: the frequency with which his officers are tapped to detain, transport and wait in hospitals with people in the throes of a mental health crisis.

Officers from Clair's 21-member Marion Police Department crisscross the state to deliver patients for court-ordered treatment, sometimes only to discover the hospital where they were sent has no available beds. Patients end up boarding in waiting rooms or emergency rooms, sometimes for days on end, while under the supervision of Clair's officers.

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