By Guy Chapman – Navarro County Gazette

Last week, members of the North Texas Behavioral Health Authority held a meeting in the Bulldog Life department of the Navarro College Library to identify and discuss gaps in the community. One of the main goals of this workshop was to see where mental health and criminal justice systems often collide, creating significant barriers to treatment and support services.

Attending the meeting were several stakeholders in Navarro County including judges, members of the police and sheriff departments, hospitals, and other care and service providers in the area.

The group spent a day and a half in a workshop where over sixty people attended the first day, with the second day narrowed down to key people. These remaining members worked to create a roadmap in determining community needs, while addressing what the group saw as gaps in services.

“This is a a new one,” NTBHA Chief of Regional Operations Nancy Blum said of the meeting. “It’s an opportunity to do a community mapping, which is a pretty high level event.”

According to Blum, some of the recognized and discussed areas of needed service during the brainstorming session were medication, juvenile services, dealing with situations regarding homelessness, expanding where financial support comes from, and extending court services.

Some of the workshop discussions also centered around ensuring local residents had access to the receipt of proper health care, while taking some of those responsibilities and use of resources off of local law enforcement.

“I think it’s really key to find ways to help the police not have to spend their time working with people with mental illness and get them into the right system of care,” said Chief Executive Officer Carol Lucky. “Get them out of the legal system and the justice system and move them to us. Especially things like when they have to drive out of county to a psychiatric hospital…. That’s a lot of time off the streets.”

One of the attendees, Corsicana Municipal Judge Cody Beauchamp, shared his own thoughts on the workshop’s progess. Beauchamp also serves on NTBHA’s Board of Directors, acting as Navarro County’s representative for the Federal Health Authority, which is the local mental health authority.

“I think there’s a need for a mental health court in Navarro County,” said Beauchamp. “We’re brainstorming about what it would look like, what the problems would be, that gut feeling that we need this actually pans out, and how it would look in concrete terms.”

Beauchamp would like to reduce the “revolving door” of people with mental illness who frequently appear in the court system by getting them the health treatment they need. He has been pleased with NTBHA’s support.

“I am happy that they’re risen to the challenge in coming down here and helping us get better mental health services,” Beauchamp said of NTBHA. “That’s part of that this is getting the police chiefs and jail staff, people from the judicial system… the community agencies…. We get them all in the same room and say ‘How can we take the services and the funds NTBHA makes available, and how can we maximize it, and get smart about how we’re addressing this problem?

“We’ve got to bridge those gaps and move forward together.”

The discussion is an ongoing one, with meetings planned in the future to continue the conversation.

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