Madison County Chairman John M. Becker has put together a Mental Health Task Force to address the rise in mental health issues in the community. The group will be developing a comprehensive mental health needs assessment to determine what the priority issues are in the community. The goal is to develop short term, mid-range and long-term goals to assist with the development of needed programs and services.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has made it apparent that we are combating a second pandemic here in Madison County, that of mental health,” said Chairman Becker. “We recognize that as we recover from COVID-19, we have to not only worry about the economy and health of our community, but the longterm mental health of the community, as well. Among a pandemic, children not going to school, less socialization, heightened political tension and substance abuse, we see that mental health is a growing issue, and it is time we focus on how we can help our residents even more than we already do.”

The county Mental Health Department operates a 24/7 Mental Health crisis line, and calls have increased significantly from 2019 to 2021. In 2019, the department answered 192 calls; in 2020, there were 485 calls; in 2021, there have already been 614 calls. The number of new individuals starting services at the mental health clinic has also increased. The clinic increased the total number of visits by 3,500 visits from 2019 to 2020, seeing a new population of people with mental health problems: Those who would not normally have anxiety or depression are now suffering.

Over the last year, Madison County Mental Health has built on already-existing programs to expand access to services for the community. The department has facilitated a Crisis Intervention Team for several years, but we have included officers from new local police departments on the team. Additionally, a CIT training will be offered in fall 2021. The Mental Health Department and the 911 Center have implemented a diversion process so that those in need of mental health support can be linked directly to the on-call therapist. The mental health clinic was able to shift to provide telehealth by phone and video to our clients and operate almost entirely remotely when needed and will continue to offer telehealth going forward.

The goal of this task force is to create a road map of services that are needed to address mental health and well-being in our community. The task force recognizes that recovery from the pandemic is a process, but the hope is that the needs assessment is the first step to try to identify what the community needs to heal.

“This is something that our community needs,” Becker said. “We want to make sure Madison County can recover from the past year and come out better and stronger than ever before.”

The Mental Health Task Force includes the chairman of the board, county administrator, other members of the Board of Supervisors and individuals from the Office of Emergency Management, Mental Health Department, Public Health Department and Department of Social Services.

By martha

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