Stepping Up Initiative meets, plans workshop


By Faith Bemiss - [email protected]



By Faith Bemiss

[email protected]

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Local agencies participating in the Stepping Up Initiative met at the Pettis County Sheriff’ Office conference room Thursday to plan for the SAMHSA’ GAINS Sequential Intercept Mapping workshop scheduled for March 22 and 23.

The workshop, obtained by a grant written by Pettis County Sheriff Kevin Bond, will help train 40 individuals in a multi-disciplinarian approach in diverting those in need of mental health care from being stalemated in the criminal justice system without treatment.

During the meeting, Bond said the goal of Thursday’s discussion was two-fold: to talk about the workshop and to also address the application process for grants for additional mental health services in the area.

Pettis County Health Center Administrator JoAnn Martin spoke to the group about the process of writing additional grants after assessing the workshop results.

Martin said she met with Chris Robinson, who has a private mental health practice in Sedalia. Robinson recently spoke with people at the New Hampshire Stepping Up Initiative.

“They have been able to gather a significant number of grants to support their project,” she said. “In the process of having that conversation, it started me to thinking. Originally we thought that we needed a person who could coordinate all of the services for those individuals who were incarcerated, met the mental health screen, and then were released.”

Martin said the more she thought about it and the more she listened to everyone she felt the project already had a few “mechanisms in place” to provide assistance on a basic level. She cited Heartland Recovery Resource Center and Katy Trail Community Health Center.

“But, what I’m hearing everybody say is ‘we don’t have a place in this community for somebody who’s in a crisis,’” Martin added. “… Sometimes people need a safe place to go and have a conversation. Many times they need a safe place to go at 3 o’clock in the morning, so they can calm down and be removed from the situation that is escalating.”

Removing the person to a “safe place” will help defuse the situation and give the person the opportunity to talk with a mental health counselor or another qualified individual.

“As law enforcement always points out these things happen at 11 o’clock on a Friday night, when there’s nobody around,” she noted. “So the option becomes to take them to the hospital for an evaluation where they sit for a long time … and then there is no place to go … and the problem escalates.

“If we had a designated place where they could receive assistance, then that might help with the intercept zero level to keep some people from getting into the cycle,” she added.

Intercept zero occurs before law enforcement arrives.

“Sometimes people just need to get to a primary care provider,” Martin added. “We know that people with mental health problems also have a lot of physical problems.

“What I’m asking everyone to do as we go through this workshop is to seriously think about what is our most acute need for this community, before we start writing grants,” she said.

According to information by SAMHSA’ GAINS, the workshop will focus on how individuals “move through” the local criminal justice system. It will also illustrate points of intervention or diversion for those with mental illness and it will teach ways that treatment systems can “interact” with the criminal justice system. The workshop will help those attending to identify where gaps in mental health services are occurring or duplicated.

During the meeting Bond asked Pettis County Community Partnership Executive Director Cheri Heeren to chair a sub-committee who would choose the individuals to participate in the workshop.

Volunteering for the sub-committee were Mark Cherry, Sedalia Police Department, Beverly Chapman, Pettis County victims’ advocate, Anna White, community mental health liaison at Burrell Behavioral Health, Claudia Kays and Johnnie Williams, Heartland Recovery Resource Center, Deana Schlesselman, Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, Sylvan Ward, with Pathways Behavioral Healthcare Inc. and Ed Bestgen, District 29 Probation and Parole.

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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