Walton Mental Health Taskforce formed to address mental health and the criminal justice system

Press release from Walton Wellness

Walton County’s front line response, a system on the brink, was the message behind Walton Wellness Inc Director, DeDe Harris’s presentation at Tuesday’s Board of Commissioners meeting. The presentation was part of a partnership between the Walton criminal justice community and Walton Wellness Inc, a non-profit dedicated to the prevention of chronic illness in Walton County, to address mental health resources in our community.

The criminal justice community showed up in force to ask the commissioners to pass a resolution for the formation of a Mental Health Task Force focusing on developing resources specific to the criminal justice system. Walton County District Attorney, Randy Mcginley, addressed the Board on behalf of the supporters explaining the clog in the court system that cases involving mental health issues create. This clog has a domino effect from the jail through the courts causing further stress on an already overly strained system. Harris laid out an informative snapshot of the current front line response system highlighting the increase in the number of mental health crisis cases that EMS and Law enforcement are responding to and the cost of this response to the Walton County taxpayers.

Harris pinpointed the problem through two graphs of actual cases from the Walton County Sheriff’s Office making apparent the boomerang effect caused by the current system. Harris concluded her presentation with a quote from Albert Einstein: We can not solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.

Commissioners passed the resolution entitled Stepping up to reduce the number of people with mental illnesses in jail. By passing this resolution, Walton County is joining counties across the country in a national initiative backed by The Council of State Governments Justice Center to reduce the number of people who have mental illness in jails. This initiative provides local task forces a conduit to state and federal resources customizable to each communities needs.

Walton Wellness Inc will act as the coordinating organization for Walton’s local Task Force with representatives from each area of the criminal justice system, EMS and local governments. Harris aims to hold the first meeting of the Task Force in January. For more information contact DeDe Harris at waltonwellness@gmail.com.

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