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County hears results of mental health assessment
Focus on diversion away from jail

Forsyth County officials previously approved having a state group look at the mental health offerings in the state, particularly as a means to divert those who need help from the criminal justice system. Last week, they heard the results of that study.

County commissioners voted at a recent meeting to release a mental health needs assessment study and its findings to the Forsyth County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council and authorized the council to use the information as needed.

“You guys are leading the state in this effort, and really helping to highlight this issue and helping highlight a path forward for other counties,” said Samuel Gonzales, research and evaluation program director for the Georgia Criminal Justice Coordinating Council.

Gonzales said the study spoke with 29 stakeholders in the community and surveyed family members, professions and other data, including jail and hospital data. In total, he said the county had 19 recommendations to divert those with mental issues.

“The inventory of resources is going to be a really important tool for the county commission, along with the mental health task force, but it’s also going to be a tool that needs constant updating and needs constant attention if it’s going to continue to be useable,” Gonzales said. 

The plan also recommends steps to improve law enforcement’s first contact with someone with mental issues and expanded resources and training for first responders. 

“We got a lot of information out there,” Gonzales said. “I think the next step is with the mental health task force in the county and from you guys at the county commission.”