South Mississippi State Hospital staff recently took steps to expand their Bridging the Gap program to include chanceries, legislators and law enforcement officers in the 15-county SMSH catchment area.
Bridging the Gap was born of the need to provide a better continuity of care for patients being discharged from SMSH approximately two years ago, and it quickly grew and evolved into a quarterly resource-sharing session.
“Bridging the Gap meetings help the staff from our hospital, mental health centers, and community representatives feel like a team working together to provide the best care for the people we serve,” said Debbie Dale, SMSH Training Director. “Together we can accomplish so much more.”
SMSH, located in Purvis, is an acute-care, regional behavioral health program that provides inpatient services for adults with mental illness. SMSH serves Lamar, Forrest, Marion, Perry, Greene, Wayne, Jones, Covington, Jefferson Davis, Stone, Pearl River, George, Harrison, Hancock, and Jackson counties. The hospital is Joint Commission accredited.
Amanda Clement, a Peer Support Specialist at SMSH, opened the August Bridging the Gap meeting by telling her story. She referred to the days before treatment as her “dark days,” saying that her work with the Department of Mental Health has played a huge role in her recovery. Hers and other recovery stories can be accessed at http://www.dmh.ms.gov/think-recovery/.
Clement was followed at the podium by Hattiesburg Police Lt. LaTosha Myers-Mitchell, who is a trained CIT officer.
According to the Mississippi Department of Mental Health website, Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT) are a nationally-recognized best practice and are the product of a partnership between local law enforcement officers and a variety of agencies, including Community Mental Health Centers, primary health providers and behavioral health professionals. Officers who have received crisis intervention training respond to individuals experiencing a mental health crisis and divert them to an appropriate setting to provide treatment, ensuring individuals are not arrested and taken to jail due to the symptoms of their illness.
“It’s critical that law enforcement and health professionals get together and share information,” said Myers-Mitchell. “We are the entities who encounter people in crisis, and we can be a better help when we have these partnerships. I learned a lot just sitting in the [Bridging the Gap] meeting listening. This gives us insight into one another’s worlds. Most of the time, we are encountering the same people, just in different settings. When we are able to sit down and share, it keeps us educated and informed to better serve the community; I think law enforcement should continue to be a part of this.”
Various other mental health professionals shared opportunities and programs available to assist in the treatment of mental health issues as well as the more recently emphasized state and national opioid crisis.
The meeting was attended by approximately 50 individuals who included inpatient and outpatient mental health providers from across South Mississippi, Department of Mental Health Deputy Director Steven Allen, and State Senator Angela Hill (R - Picayune), who toured the hospital and was complimentary of the staff and work being done at SMSH.
It is the hope of SMSH Director Sabrina Young that Bridging the Gap will continue to grow and be a valuable resource to mental health providers in South Mississippi.
“Bridging the Gap is an important communication tool for our staff as well as outpatient providers in locating resources and services for the people we serve,” said Young. “I am excited about it and look forward to helping grow the program.”