Public input sought on mental health, addiction crisis

Date Published: 
Feb. 2, 2018

Over the next few weeks, Delaware’s Behavioral Health Consortium will host four community forums on mental health and addiction across the state.

According to its website, the Behavioral Health Consortium is an “advisory body comprised of community advocates, law enforcement, healthcare professionals, and state leaders that will assess and outline an integrated plan for action to address prevention, treatment, and recovery for mental health, substance use, and co-occurring disorders. The consortium will develop short-term and long-term strategies and initiatives to address the major addiction and mental health challenges we face in Delaware.”

The forums are being held in Wilmington, Delaware City, Dover and Georgetown. The Georgetown forum will take place Thursday, Feb. 15, 6-8:30 p.m. at the Georgetown Public Library.

Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long said that anyone in the community who is or has been affected by addiction and/or mental illness should attend at least one of the forums.

“The forums are open to the entire community, and we need their input and participation. This could be a parent of someone struggling, a person in recovery, community leaders, law enforcement, educators or just a concerned citizen who wants to help us in our efforts. We need people to come out to talk about what they are experiencing and seeing in their schools, neighborhoods and everyday lives.”

Hall-Long said each forum will begin with an overview of the mission of the consortium and the work it has been doing.

“The most important component of this meeting will be input from members of the public,” she said. “We will break into group discussions on what people are seeing and experiencing in their communities, and what they think we should be focusing on.”

Hosting such forums across the state is critical to understanding mental health and addiction, she added.

“Gov. Carney and I both recognize that we can’t rely on a few officials and experts to find solutions to this epidemic. Many state agencies and activists have been working hard to tackle this issue from their own perspective.

“What we’re finding now, however, is that the uncoordinated efforts of the many groups working on this has resulted in a fractured behavioral health system. We have to engage the entire community. Not only do we want to talk about what Delaware has been doing, we want to gain critical feedback from people in the community.”

The consortium plans to offer recommendations and policy proposals to streamline efforts to address those suffering from mental health issues and addiction in Delaware.

“This crisis will not be solved by experts, activists and officials sitting in a room. Solutions are going to come from those out in the community who are living and experiencing this epidemic firsthand.

“We need people to come out and talk about what they are experiencing and seeing in their schools, neighborhoods and everyday lives. We need mothers and fathers to talk about what it’s like having a child who is suffering from addiction; we need to hear from those who are in recovery and the struggles they face; we need the perspective of what teachers and educators see in our schools and how to better equip them when they see the signs of mental illness and addiction. We need our police officers to talk about what they are seeing every day and the impact it’s having on the communities they protect.”

Hall-Long said it is imperative for the community to attend the forums and have their voices heard.

“As a nurse and lieutenant governor, I hear from people across Delaware each and every day who don’t know where to turn when their loved one is struggling,” said Hall-Long. “We hope to have an open and honest discussion about how we can all work together to improve prevention, expand treatment and provide better overall services in the communities throughout Delaware. We need their participation to make that happen.

“We are all in this together, and it’s important that everyone’s voices are heard.”

For more information related to the consortium or the forums, visit https://ltgov.delaware.gov/behavioral-health-consortium.