Stepping Up Initiative moving forward with sub-committees


By Faith Bemiss - [email protected]



By Faith Bemiss

[email protected]

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Strides are still being made with organizing mental health subcommittees for the the local Stepping Up Initiative that started in Pettis County in June 2015.

Helpful information garnered at the National Stepping Up Conference in Washington D.C. was also shared.

In Thursday’s meeting at the Thompson Conference Center, at State Fair Community College, Pettis County Sheriff Kevin Bond said the members of the Pettis County Health Coalition, who attended the national conference hosted April 17-19, came back with many “good ideas” for the program.

He also added that the local group gained much knowledge from the Sequential Intercept Mapping Workshop hosted in March that was tailored for Pettis County mental health needs.

“We’ve talked before about trying to have a meeting at some point in time, where we can bring some front line people in or at least start the process of trying to train those people,” he noted. “I think we need to have our resource directory in hand first. We are taking some preliminary approaches with CIT (Crisis Intervention Team) that I think will be able to allow that process to start.”

At present, Bond added that the group needed to focus on providing an update on the different subgroups within the Stepping Up Initiative.

“At the last meeting, we identified five different areas that we really want to focus on,” he noted. “Hopefully we’ve got some reports from each.”

Subcommittees include the creation of a mental health diversion center with Burrell Behavior Health Director of Clinical Services Dan Lester, of Columbia, as chairperson. Pettis County Associate Circuit Judge, Division 6 Paul Beard is overseeing the aspects of mental heath concerning the judicial system while Pettis County Health Center Administrator JoAnn Martin chairs the boundary spanner position.

Sedalia Police Officer Mark Cherry is chairing a local Crisis Intervention Team (CIT), while Smith-Cotton Junior High School Social Worker Denise Woolery is overseeing the creation of a local chapter of the National Alliance for Mental Health (NAMI).

Bond said they met last Monday to discuss the establishment of the CIT council and whether they want to join with the CIT members in Columbia and Jefferson City or whether Pettis should remain its own entity. If Pettis County stands alone as its own CIT, Bond said the counties of Saline, Johnson, Henry, Benton could be included with the local program.

Bond added he’s found that many of the hospitals have “fast tracks” for CIT officers. If a CIT officer takes someone with a mental health issue to University Hospital, in Columbia, the staff will recognize the CIT button on the officer’s uniform and process the admission quicker.

“We’ve not seen that available yet for Pettis County, but that’s one thing we want to get offered,” he noted.

Lester reported to Bond that renovations for the mental health diversion center, possibly to be located at the former Pettis County Juvenile Office building, would be “straightforward and minor.”

“We had a chance to go over and look at the whole Juvenile Detention Center just to see what kind of shape it was in,” Lester added. “It’s been maintained very well.”

He also noted that he was open to hearing from others in the community about ways to “pull together funds” to make the renovations on the building. He added that he believed the Pettis County Commissioners were “on board” with the project.

“I think if we come to them with realistic, doable suggestions they will work with us to make that happen,” he said.

Bond added the only drawback is the availability of the building, because it is being used as a storage facility for county maintenance. Another facility would have to be procured to store the maintenance equipment, before it could be renovated. Bond is working to find a solution to the problem.

Martin, boundary spanner position chair, spoke about her concerns on the challenges of asking for funds when they had no estimate of cost.

“One of the challenges when you are looking for funding is you have to know how much to ask for, ” she said. “We’ve been looking at a variety of grants, but we have no idea of what’s exactly needed or a pretty good estimate of what it’s going to cost. It’s very hard to go to foundations or other organizations … unless you have a solid plan and a solid cost.”

Lester explained that he was planing to have an expert look at the facility to provide an estimated cost for renovations.

“One of the things we learned in Washington (D.C.) is many of our counterpart communities have a county mental health board or organization,” Martin added. “They are the ones who are responsible for overseeing mental health services for a community.

“Who knows if down the line, that can become a 501 c-3 restructure, with a board, and with a governing authority,” she added. “There are multiple structures, but we are talking about something that’s got a lot of moving parts to it. The need to formalize all those moving parts, at some point in time, is going to come about.”

Martin also spoke about the trip to Washington D.C. and how the members learned that any Stepping Up Initiative needs to have accurate, local and timely data. She added that understanding “capacity” was important.

“What capacity do we truly have in this community?” she noted. “It’s great to have a book that lists all these different services but if you can’t get anybody in there because they don’t have the resources … then that becomes a true exercise in frustration.”

She added that many mental health workers in Pettis County have often faced the frustration of not being able to place someone who is in need of services. Martin also reported that she will have an intern this summer who will begin collecting data from service providers.

Judge Paul Beard gave an update on the court diversion program.

“… It looks like our program isn’t going to be court supervised, the Pettis County Court isn’t willing to do that,” he said. “But our idea that we came up with will actually be better for our community, because it will open up the diversion program not just for people who are in the court system, but even for people who are heading that direction through referrals through local providers or families …”

Referrals can also come from “prosecutorial deferments” and court probation.

“Hopefully it will actually turn out to be better for us,” he added.

Bond reported additional information on Saturday about NAAMI and jail screenings.

“Denise Woolery reported on reorganizing the NAAMI group and has gotten information on annual statewide training that will be conducted this summer,” he said by email. “She has been in contact with a couple of representatives from other chapters (and) Sam Hargrave reported the jail screening questions are now integrated into the records management system and he will begin updating the group on ‎monthly statistics.”

Faith Bemiss can be reached at 530-0289 or @flbemiss.

Sedalia Democrat

Faith Bemiss can be reached at 530-0289 or @flbemiss.

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