Over the course of many months, we have instituted a growing slate of mental health reforms to better the lives of Shelby County residents and our county employees.
As has been stated many times before, the coronavirus pandemic brought to the fore the sometimes dire state of our collective mental health, a condition that existed long before there was a pandemic.
And that’s where we come in. Government, very often, has the ability, and I believe the obligation to help.
We have and will continue to find ways to do just that.
Let’s start with our emergency responders.
They will tell you it’s not uncommon that the first person individuals experiencing a mental health crisis speak with is a 911 operator. How that operator handles the call can in some circumstances mean the difference between life and death.
We’ve made sure our 911 operators are prepared.
As part of our reforms, all of Shelby County's 911 operators have gone through nationally accredited training and are prepared to handle calls from residents experiencing a range of mental health crises including suicide threats.
Additionally, when an ambulance responds to an individual in crisis, we now have the ability to take them directly to a mental healthcare provider, Alliance Healthcare Services. Shelby County is blessed with world-class hospitals. Still, a patient experiencing a mental health crisis has needs that often can't be met by an emergency room doctor in a hospital setting.
This new option, we hope, will get patients timely and appropriate care and puts ambulances back in service more quickly.
We’ve added a full-time veterans services officer, giving Shelby County’s veterans more access to their earned benefits, including mental health treatments.
We're now on the cutting edge in terms of telehealth. Shelby County employees have had access to free web-based, phone or in-person counseling sessions, a particular need for our workers who have served on the front-lines during the pandemic.
We've clarified our sick policy so county employees can use their sick leave for the treatment of mental illness, diagnosis or preventative care. Obviously, mental health care is as valid as any other health concern. We’ve made sure to codify our sick-leave policy so that every employee is comfortable attending to their mental health needs.
These new services for residents and policies for employees are based on some of the nation's best practices in the public and private sectors.
The costs, or what government calls the fiscal note, has been negligible. In some cases it costs the county no money at all.
But, return on our investment can be immeasurable.
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