Mental health discussed during board of supervisors

The Marion County Board of Supervisors is shown in this Journal-Express file photo.

KNOXVILLE – Kathy Lerma and Angela Nelson of the CROSS Mental Health Region are looking to see Marion County step up its efforts to reduce the number of people with mental illnesses in jails with a program called Stepping Up.

Both Lerma and Nelson approached the Marion County Board of Supervisors during their May 23 meeting to discuss the program.

Stepping Up is a call-to-action program which allows county officials to work with leaders like the the sheriff's office, a county district attorney, local treatment providers and state policy makers to help people with mental illnesses.

The program's success would also be tracked, with data from the program recorded, both said.

The goal of the initiative is to meet with local organizations and residents, such as hospitals, care providers and people in the community, that feel mental health and substance abuse is a problem in Marion County, Nelson added.

“We need to design a plan to help reduce the number of individuals that we see in our jails with mental health,” Nelson said.

Nelson continued by saying the county does not communicate effectively, data is not collected to track those who need help and no referral has been put in place for individuals with mental health issues.

Lerma asked if there was a way to get these individuals into treatment earlier, and help them when the individual is released.

“We need to get services wrapped around [mental illness] to encourage them to get into these services and a recovery model,” Lerma said.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Raymie added a few considerations for the board to think about concerning the mental health issue.

Raymie asked if there was a way the county could better use the resources available. He added that he would like updates on the program's progress. The supervisors eventually approved the resolution moving forward with the Stepping Up program.

Delorus Fortner made a public comment on the Pleasantville Senior Center, and said it needs more support to keep the doors open.

Fortner said many seniors in the community use the the center.

“We have 25-30 seniors meeting at the center everyday for food, plus we have 20-25 seniors we deliver food to everyday,” Fortner said.

The center does more than help seniors, Fortner added, noting that the center also supports the FFA, the Pleasantville High School alumni association and the Pleasantville High School drill team. It's also open for birthday parties and socialization.

Fortner said the center provides an opportunity for seniors to socialize, which gives seniors something to do.

“If I did not go to the senior center during the day, I would probably be walking around in my pajamas sitting on a chair watching television,” Fortner said. “The [center] forces us to get up, go out and be healthy.”

Fortner said Marion County's support is very important to the community of Pleasantville.

Also considered by the Board of Supervisors were:

• Mike Helle's resignation for the Civil Service Commission was accepted, according to Marion County Attorney Ed Bull. A list of potential candidates for the commission will be provided at the next regular meeting.

• A parcel of land for Nearwood Winery was rezoned from residential to commercial. Owner, Michael Van Natta, wanted to move his tasting room and processing to 1699 Highway 14.

Ethan Goetz is a general assignment reporter for the Knoxville Journal-Express. He can be reached in the newsroom at 641-842-2155, ext. 19, or via email at Follow him on Twitter @Ethan_Goetz.

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