VIDEO: DeKalb Co. Commission passes resolution supporting the “Stepping Up” initiative
January 24, 2018
Southern Torch (3238 articles)
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VIDEO: DeKalb Co. Commission passes resolution supporting the “Stepping Up” initiative

PHOTO: DeKalb County Commission President Ricky Harcrow discusses the “Stepping Up” Initiative, which seeks to better address mental health issues at the county level. (Tyler Pruett | Southern Torch)

By Tyler Pruett, Managing Editor 

tyler@southerntorch.com 

FORT PAYNE, Ala. — (Video at the Bottom) On Tuesday, January 23, 2018, the DeKalb County Commission signed a resolution supporting the federal “Stepping Up” initiative. The initiative seeks to, “reduce the number of people with mental health issues,” in county jails.

DeKalb County became the 12th county in Alabama to sign a resolution supporting the initiative, along with Autauga, Blount, Cherokee, Elmore, Etowah, Jefferson, Lowndes, Macon, Madison, Mobile, and Montgomery counties.

“This program has four particular measures to it: number one, is reducing the number of people with mental illnesses booked into jail; number two, is reducing the time people with mental illnesses remain in our jail. Number three, is connecting the connections to treatment, and number four, is reducing the amount of people (with mental illnesses) that return,” explained Harcrow.

A few days ago, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey officially appointed Harcrow and several other county officials across the state to a mental health task force. We conducted an interview with Harcrow on the issue of people incarcerated with mental illnesses shortly after Christmas.

In early December, Lynn T. Beshear, Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Mental Health, announced a state task force to address mental health treatment at the county level, and asked Harcrow to join the task force.

Before passing the resolution, District III Commissioner Chris Kuykendall said, “If you remember this year, our budget included funding for a CED Mental Health facility to provide service to people within our jails and that shouldn’t be there, but there isn’t any other place they can be. I think anything we can do as citizens, counties, and individuals to take a step towards alleviating this problem, is something we should do.”

“And making people aware of the problem is step number one,” said Kuykendall. “They already know that a huge portion of our inmates are there for drug related situations, but they also don’t know that the drug related and mental illness are intertwined, and they are there as well.”

“Our employees in the jail and the staff do a great job, they are not equipped to handle the magnitude of the problems. So, I’m all in favor. I think it’s in the best interest of the county,” said Kuykendall.

“I appreciate Mr. Kuykendall and President Harcrow for the effort they’ve made to help this,” said District I Commissioner Shane Wootten. “I think the figure is, for a mentally ill patient to be in the jail it costs 2 – 3 times more as a normal incarcerated person. Like Chris said, we are not set up for the care that they need. This seems to be a good program, and the people of DeKalb County should be proud that the Governor thought so much of Mr. Harcrow to ask for him to be on this committee,” said Wootten.

“The thing we need to do is to sign on to this program. Now, this is not a fix for everything that is wrong with the mental health programs; that’s too many varied problems, but it is a step in the right direction,” said DeKalb County Commission President Ricky Harcrow, during the meeting.

Watch the Video: 

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