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Will County group talks mental health solutions amid gap in service

Braidwood chief asks for more training for police

PLAINFIELD – A group of health care, nonprofit and law enforcement leaders met Tuesday morning in Plainfield to discuss the current state of behavioral health in Will County.

The breakfast event, titled “On the Table, Your Voice Matters,” was hosted by the Will County Mobilizing for Action in Planning and Partnerships Action Team at the Edwards Outpatient Center on West 127th Street. The team meets monthly, but each year at this time leaders dig deeper into behavioral health to advance the mission of the Kennedy Forum.

The forum was created by former Rhode Island Congressman Patrick Kennedy after he left office in 2011, in an effort to place behavioral health on the same level as other health areas.

Among those attending from the law enforcement field was Braidwood Police Chief Nick Ficarello, who proposed having one central hub for nonprofessional mental health workers in the county. The hub could be used by police departments seeking training and advice on how to deal with behavioral health issues.

“It’s time law enforcement thinks outside the box if we’re going to address not only the drug problem but the mental health problem in this country,” Ficarello said, adding he’d like to be able to send officers somewhere nearby for trainings by mental health professionals on how to handle behavioral health situations out in the field.

Ficarello noted encounters with individuals experiences severe mental health problems can be violent or deadly, and trainings for law enforcement can help supplement the mental health industry. He said law enforcement isn’t trained to deal with these individuals to near the extent that a mental health professional is.

The county is lacking in mental health services. That’s why Silver Cross Hospital is trying to get approval for a 100-bed mental health facility on its New Lenox campus.

Will County Health Department Adult Mental Health Program Manager Dr. Scott DuBois said Will County has one mental health professional for every 1,000 people, while the national average is one for every 375 people. Discussions such as these are aimed at finding ways to fill the gap.

According to data distributed at the Tuesday meeting, Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant funding is lacking. Over the last 10 years, this funding has not kept up with health care inflation, resulting in a 29 percent decrease in the real value of funding for fiscal year 2017 compared to 10 years ago.

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