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Troup County discusses mental health programs

Troup County has previously been recognized as a leader in the state for its work with mental health courts, but on Thursday, the Troup County Board of Commissioners heard information that could potentially help some of those people before they enter the criminal justice system.

County Clerk Valerie West has been a longtime advocate of mental health programs in the county and the state, and she welcomed representatives from two state mental health groups to the commission work session on Thursday.

“All of us are concerned about our opportunities in the communities in which we live, and those opportunities are housing and transportation and education and employment and social connections,” said Irene Shane, vice-chair of the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities Region Six Advisory Council. “But, people with serious mental illnesses, people with addictions, alcohol addiction, drug addiction and people with intellectual and developmental disabilities find that accessing and securing opportunities is much more difficult in their communities.”

Shane outlined the results of a recent study by Delphi, which covered the responses of professionals in the mental health field to different scenarios, summarized those responses and tied those recommendations into a survey that DBHDD hopes see at least 8,000 completed responses by April 14 that will help identify which of those needs are currently unmet within individual counties. The questionnaires are anonymous and people from a wide variety of backgrounds are encouraged to fill out the form in order to best determine the needs of the community. The questionnaire can be found at Surveymonkey.com/r/GeorgiaNeeds.

“Anybody can take it,” Shane said.

Some work was done even before the meeting to get the process rolling and ensure that local mental health needs and resources are identified.

“I have preemptively reached out to LaGrange, West Point and Hogansville, and they all agreed to the government entities helping us get the word out,” County Manager Eric Mosley said.

The commission also heard from representatives from Mental Health America on some of the known mental health needs in the area and some of the resources that many residents may need.

“We offer education outreach and advocacy work across the state, a part of that is being able to educate communities around what resources are available,” said Yosha Dotson, from Mental Health America of Georgia. “A part of that is being able to educate communities about what types of training is available for non-mental health professionals to be able to recognize signs and symptoms of mental illness or mental health crises.”

In addition to training programs, the MHA also works to make it more likely for people facing mental illness to find help instead of prison time.

“[MHA’s Mental Health Academy] targets those folks who will most likely encounter someone in a mental health crisis, or someone who is approaching a mental health crisis or having mental health challenges,” Dotson said.

“That includes dispatchers for 911. It includes emergency, or EMT, professionals. It includes police officers. That is part of the way that Eric [Mosley], and I started having this conversation. A lot of police officers are now being tasked with even inside of the jail, housing more people with mental health challenges.”

Mosley estimated that roughly 25 percent of inmates in Troup County Jail may face mental health challenges.

Dotson said that there are grants available to fund the programs in Troup County, and she said that MHA has funding for training if those interested can provide a location for the training to take place.

Other topics discussed during the meeting include:

  • A request that a property on Upper Big Springs city be de-annexed into the county from the city. The property is surrounded on three sides by county properties.
  • A request to lift the hiring freeze to replace an employee who quit in the sanitation department.
  • Troup County Finance Officer Buddy Cashwell requested approval to utilize the Multi-Bank Securities Inc. eConnectDirect as a tool to invest in short term Certificates of Deposit. Several commissioners asked about the possibility of investing some of the money in local banks, and Cashwell said that local banks would have that opportunity, though it could prove a difficult undertaking for small banks due to FDIC requirements on large investments.
  • Crews also thanked County Engineer James Emery for overseeing the installation of flashing lights on Wares Crossroad.

The Troup County Board of Commissioners will meet again on Tuesday at 9 a.m. at 100 Ridley Ave.