issues facing morgan county

Mental Health

   When it comes to mental health, like many of our issues, there is no simple answer. This particular issue is connected to almost every other issue we encounter. The latest data suggests that over 30% of law enforcement calls for service have some relationship to a mental health crisis and law enforcement often becomes the final stop for citizens in the midst of a mental health related event. Additionally, roughly 40% of inmates in our county jail have some form of mental health illness.  Whether or not we are properly trained or equipped to deal with these issues, the bottom line is, law enforcement will face these sensitive issues almost daily. The most important thing to do when dealing with a person suffering from a mental health crisis is to de-escalate the situation and calm things down when circumstances allow.

   Dealing with citizens in the grip of a mental health crisis is a difficult experience for any law enforcement officer. It is important that we take a step back and understand that this citizen is indeed in crisis. Officers need to take the time to first stabilize and calm the situation and then work towards the best course of action for both the citizen and the community.

   Most citizens who are in a mental health crisis end up in jail. This is NOT the place for these citizens. Due to the lack of resources and options in our State to handle this one issue, most end up in jail. At which point, the treatment and care of the mental health issue falls on the budgets of local law enforcement and county commissions. As mental health treatment facilities closed, the cost and need for treatment did not go away. It has simply been transferred to law enforcement. The single largest provider of mental health care in Alabama is now the Department of Corrections. On behalf of our community and citizens with mental health issues, we have to work together to make changes on the State level. More funding has to be given to open more mental health care facilities in our State and develop alternative options.

   As most can probably imagine, our county jail is NOT the place to receive the type of care needed to address mental health issues. The county is spending close to 1 million dollars on health care for inmates each year. A large portion of that money is spent taking care of inmates with mental health issues. Officers are dealing with mental health issues on the streets and we are dealing with them in the jail all with little to no helpful, useful or real resources. Our citizens and community deserve better.

   As Sheriff, I will work with our local legislative leaders to better educate them on these issues and secure better funding for mental health. Internally I will look for local options to help ease the burden on our system and find solutions for additional training and education within our department.

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