County agrees to lead in mental health grant attempt
Jackson County Floridan - 3/9/2017
Jackson and two other area counties may join forces in an effort to score a $75,000 federal grant to help improve outcomes for people with mental health issues who run afoul of the law. The ultimate goal is to craft plans for inmates with as-yet untreated mental health problems who need intervention to help them get the treatment and guidance they need. Rather than winding up behind bars again and again because their issues remain unaddressed, those people could be reached and helped by the programs the grant would help fund.
Washington and Holmes counties are expected to also be included in the grant request. The funding request will go through a competitive process to determine whether the local applicant group is awarded the money.
Jackson County Commissioners have agreed to let Jackson County be the primary entity through which the grant would be passed if it were awarded.
The request will be prepared and submitted by Life Management Center of Northwest Florida.
In an e-mail to the county explaining the purpose of the grant, Life Management representative Jeff Stone said the money would go toward meeting the goals of the Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program authorized by Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act of 2004 and a reauthorization and improvement act of 2008.
The idea is to plan and implement justice and mental health strategies designed jointly by the experts in both those fields who are charged with caring for individuals they encounter who engage in behaviors or show symptoms associated with mental health problems and possibly co-occurring substance abuse.
Increasing access to mental health resources sometimes means first educating law enforcement officers in ways that can help them recognize, report and respond appropriately as the encounter situations that may have arisen from mental health and/or substance abuse issues. Increasing access may also be greatly advanced by having law enforcement and mental health experts work together in their efforts to deliver support and help to those who need intervention and that as early as possible.
Already, in 2016, toolkits were developed specifically for law enforcement agencies geared to helping officers recognize and make appropriate choices when encountering situations with possible mental health and substance abuse aspects.
Some goals of the grant, if awarded, are to work toward universal screening and assessment tools and enhanced strategies to treat rather than necessarily incarcerate mentally ill/substance abusing offenders who would be better served in other environments that could divert them from the destructive path they're on.