Attended Mental Health Conference in Galveston Texas
The week of October 23rd I attended the 8th annual Mental Health Conference in Galveston, Texas. This yearly event brings together presenters from around the country to speak on mental health issues that affect the criminal justice system. The conference also featured vendors, such as CorreHealth, who work directly with agencies and support them in their efforts. Topics ranged from diversion programs designed to assist those with substance abuse, mental health and homelessness issues, to wellness programs designed to assist front line workers in law enforcement and medical care workers. The programs we have initiated at the Sheriff’s Department (LCSO) are mirroring the programs being implemented across the country, for example the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) and a grant from the Department of Justice (DOJ). This was a blessing to see our efforts are parallel to those discussed at this conference.
LCSO has implemented the LEAD Program, which is an example of how communities can come together to help those in need. By diverting qualified applicants charged with low level and non-violent crimes, such as misdemeanor drug charges and violators with mental health issues, to assistance programs to help them break the incarceration cycle and get them the help they need.
This program was started when the Cheyenne Regional Medical Center (CRMC) was awarded grant funding for the initiative, but required that they partner with local law enforcement agencies to implement it. Both the Sheriff’s Office and the Cheyenne Police Department jumped at the opportunity to come on board with the endeavor. It was a great example of collaboration between multiple agencies to lift up those in need, helping break the cycle of addiction, and helping those suffering from mental health issues to once again become productive members of the community. Since the inception of the program, the Sheriff’s Office has helped 31 people enter this program and the Cheyenne Police Department has helped 35. That is 66 community members who have chosen to take positive steps to improve their lives and hopefully help place them on the correct path to a positive long-term personal change.
An additional example of Department of Justice (DOJ) grants being used in similar ways across the country is in October 2021, the Sheriff’s Office was awarded a Department of Justice grant which will be used to fund additional wellness programs for the deputies. It will also allow the Laramie County Sheriff’s Office to broaden our community outreach to those with mental health and substance abuse issues. One of the grant requirements was that the grant recipient partner with another local agency, which will also receive funding in these same mental health and substance abuse programs. We have partnered with the Cheyenne Police Department to strengthen the effectiveness of the program across the city of Cheyene and Laramie County.
Both of these collaborative efforts require building and maintaining partnerships and I truly appreciate all of the efforts of Cheyenne Police Department Chief Francisco, his staff, and the exceptional staff from CRMC.
While at the conference, I also had the opportunity to network with professionals from across the country who share the same goals for their communities. These connections are vital as it puts more minds together to solve the mental health and addiction problems felt across the nation.
At this conference I gained relevant and current knowledge as well as made contacts with other entities across the country which will assist our agency in developing programs and resources that will benefit the Laramie County community in the future.