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Commission to pursue grant for mental health

Officials in Forsyth County are hoping a grant will assist the sheriff’s office in finding diversion programs for those they encounter with mental issues.

Forsyth County commissioners voted unanimously at a meeting last week to allow county staff to apply for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for a Law Enforcement and Behavioral Health Partnerships for Early Diversion Grant program.

The county could receive up to $330,000 with a required in-kind match of 25 percent of the grant received. 

District 4 Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills said the grant has been recommended after the county approved a survey of mental health in the county. The funds will be used by the sheriff’s office for those with mental health issues.

“It is a chance of getting $330,000, if we were to get it, yearly for five years,” Mills said. “There is a 25 percent match that goes with it. That doesn’t mean that we will get it. It doesn’t mean we’ll get the $330,000, but it could be that we get a portion.”

Mills said the grant could be used to hire more deputies or professionals to deal with mental health.

Sheriff Ron Freeman said such a program would hopefully help those with mental health issues to get help rather than go to jail.

“I love the thought of when we find someone in crisis, my jail not becoming a mental health ward,” Freeman said. “It’s not what it was designed to do.”

Freeman said his office could contribute about $10,000 to the grant.