Engage Class Learns About Mental Health During Public Safety Day

Leon Fooksman
Leadership Palm Beach County
October 22, 2015

What’s the largest mental health provider in Palm Beach County?

The Sheriff’s Office jail.

The 2016 Leadership Engage class learned this month during Public Safety Day.

Class member Julie Bishop recaps the day, including the steps needed to address our community’s mental health treatment issues.

What was the most important issue/debate discussed during the Session Day? What is the best way to solve/address that issue

Julie Bishop: During Public Safety Day, the most important issue discussed was mental health.  PBSO has unintentionally become the largest mental health provider in the County.  Some of the suggested ways to address the issue is to raise mental health as a State/County funding priority.  The Sheriff has tackled the issue by forming Mental Health Teams (mental health professional + deputy), despite de-funding.  The campaign of “See Something, Say Something” – which is part of the community policing effort -- is one of the best tools to know when someone’s issues are escalating.  Also, coordinating with non-profits to help inmates (with mental health/addiction issues) upon release is a way to break the cycle of recidivism.

What was the second most important issue/debate discussed during the Session Day? What is the best way to solve/address that issue?

Julie Bishop: The second most discussed issue was the cost and manpower to deal with arrests for driving under suspension (DUS).  DUS is overused and is the reason for over 1/3 of all arrests.  A suggestion to address the issue is to change legislation to make it an infraction rather than a crime to reduce court and police caseloads.

What can the broader leadership community do to solve/address these issues?

Julie Bishop: The leadership community is a network of individuals that could facilitate the connections between PBSO and non-profit mental health facilities.  We could elevate the issue as a priority for legislative action and State funding. More specifically, let’s develop a list of our representatives and contact them individually and/or as a class to endorse changes to the DUS and prioritization of funding for Mental Health. Also, we can expand the use of services with agencies such as the Lord’s Place and consider a pilot project with 211 to follow up with individuals after their discharge from a Baker Act.

Julie Bishop is the division director for Palm Beach County Environmental Resources Management. 

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