Adjusting the Vision Raising the Barr Weekly Memo: Issue 454

A little over two years ago, Laurel addressed a group of 1200 concerned citizens, clergy and congregants from all denominations, and local and state politicians in a plea for changes to be made in how those suffering from mental illness and substance abuse are taken care of during an acute crisis. Most of those in need do not seek help, especially during an episode, and find themselves incarcerated in Cleveland County Jail. We’ve all read of the massive overcrowding and lack of medical care and deaths that have occurred there over the years and one thing we all understood; this method was unacceptable, cruel and did little to solve the worsening epidemic on the streets in our city.

A crisis diversion center was proposed that evening by many distinguished speakers on the dais. Representatives from the jail, prosecutors, mayors, mental health workers, congressmen and congresswomen, lawyers and law enforcement came together that evening to speak the truth and be a catalyst for the critically needed diversion center.

I’m proud to say that this past spring, that vision became a reality, and Cleveland’s crisis center opened its doors to its first patients. But nothing comes to fruition without bumps along the way and we are again at a crossroad as to how to move forward. Rather than this center being open 24/7 to anyone in crisis and in immediate need for assessment, stabilization and a treatment plan, it is one that can be entered only through the police department and the prosecutor’s office. This is exactly what was not intended for this new system. What we need is a mental health crisis center, not just a criminal diversion center.

Most of the business goals we set for ourselves, are usually attainable and within our reach, at least in our vision. It takes focus and action to see these goals come to fruition. Yet, to achieve this success, it requires we evaluate where missteps and mistakes have been made, and the impact of unexpected events, so we can then make the necessary course corrections and adjustments.

Next week, Laurel will again be speaking in a zoom forum to reiterate what changes need to take place to better serve those in need without fear of incarceration, which only hurts, not helps those in need. This is a project very near and dear to our hearts as our son continues to struggle with his addiction. It’s back to the drawing board not to reinvent the wheel, but to tweak and fill the tires.

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