Chair – Ti Nelson, LSWAIC
The Mental-Behavioral Health Committee meetings for 2017 are in the Benton-Franklin Health District Board Room on 1st Wednesdays 3:00-4:30 pm.
- Promoting positive attitudes toward mental health awareness
- Providing timely access to quality mental health services
- Working to identify and eliminate gaps which are barriers to individualized care
- Advocating for sustainable funding to support the mental health system
2015 was a busy year for the Mental Health Committee, with much of their work prompted by the Community Health Improvement Plan, and the passage of the Public Safety sales tax measure in 2014. During the year, the committee heard presentations about Mental Health Court Best Practices, reviewed the job description for the Mental Health Court Coordinator, discussed the need for more housing for people with mental illness with county, community organization, and housing authority personnel, and helped develop the agenda for the community’s first Mental Health summit with the Faith community. Several members of the MHC were also involved in the Greater Tri-City Area Behavioral Health Delivery System Review workgroup.
The passage of the Public Safety sales tax measure gave the committee a role in advocating for its implementation, and educating the people who had the task of implementing it. As advocates of the sales tax, and as subject matter experts in behavioral health, the committee tackled issues that could be barriers to operating a successful Mental Health Court program, and used their meetings as opportunities to engage members of the justice, public safety, housing and behavioral health systems in understanding how these barriers could lead to the programs’ failure if not addressed.
The visibility of people with mental illness was punctuated with an incident in Pasco where a man named Antonio Zambrano-Montes on February 10th was shot to death by Pasco police on February 10th. The incident was covered by the national media and an independent investigation was requested by the Franklin County Coroner. This local incident adds to the number of incidents across the country where people with mental illness have met with unnecessary force by police misunderstanding their actions.
Several members of the MCH were involved in the annual Crisis Intervention Training (CIT), and the local NAMI organization dedicated money to help fund its activities. CIT was designed for law enforcement personnel to create better communication, understanding, and tolerance of people living with mental illness. It also teaches police and public safety personnel how to identify, respond and interact with community members acting out under duress. The Crisis Intervention Training in 2015 drew record numbers of participants due to the Pasco tragedy. Forty-two participants plus consumers attended the forty hour training. The consumer component of the training is one of the highlights of the annual training, and helps the police and other attendees have a better understanding of mental health and the challenges people who live with mental illness face every day.