Thursday, March 30, 2023

First look at mental health initiative report in Richmond County

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) – We’re getting a first look at a report on a mental health initiative in Richmond County.

Local leaders joined a national program looking at ways to keep people with mental health issues out of prison.

District 1 Commissioner Jordan Johnson is spearheading this initiative and has been since the city of Augusta passed a resolution in 2021 to become a growing city.

Johnson has seen the impact of mental health on his own family and says he wants everyone to have access to mental health resources in Richmond County. It is a coordinated effort.

“Every branch of our government and our not-for-profit sectors came together to figure out how we can make services more accessible to people,” he said.

To help solve a problem that affects thousands of families in Richmond County.

“Mental health has been an issue that affects not only our homeless population, but our population at large,” he said.

In 2021, Johnson pushed Augusta to become a growing city.

The Growth Initiative is a national organization to help reduce the number of people who go to prison suffering from mental health problems.

“I think the issue has been that there hasn’t been an effort to holistically address mental health in our communities,” he said.

This newly published report is called the Sequential Disruption Map. It was completed by the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government, which works with law enforcement, hospitals, prisons and courts to show how community behavioral health needs intersect with the criminal justice system.

This is a look at the map of Richmond County.

The report shows gaps in resources in Richmond County while explaining how that gap can be filled. Top priorities in the report: finding two more doctors and creating inpatient psychiatric treatment because local hospitals don’t have it.

“People need help. Not a jail cell,” he said.

The report lists the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office as having only 48 of their 546 deputies trained in crisis intervention.

Full report:

I-TEAM pointed to the lack of funding for the Crisis Intervention Team cit program.

“I think there are a number of opportunities that we can take advantage of outside of the general budget. Provide funding through our federal government and our state government,” he said.

Johnson says the goal is to create a task force that can help address the growing concern about mental health in the county.

“When we’re talking about building Augusta, we can’t leave behind people who can’t speak for themselves, and I hope this effort speaks to that,” Johnson said.

Like the Homelessness Task Force, the Mental Health Task Force will function in the same way. Another focus of this report was giving people citations and tickets instead of arresting them.

If arrested, they want extensive mental health screenings in jail.

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