MS Sen. Chris Johnson visits FCSO to discuss mental health legislative topics


FORREST COUNTY, Miss. (WDAM) – State Senator Chris Johnson recently met with the Forrest County Sheriff’s Office about legislation that directly affects law enforcement, including facilities and mental health.

Sheriff Charlie Sims said with the current increase of people in a mental health crisis, conversations regarding mental health are crucial to have with state leaders.

“The numbers are going up but the dollars that are being spent towards mental health have seen reductions in the last few years so it falls back on local levels,” said Sims.

With it falling back on the local level, Sims said the need for evaluation centers in counties was another large topic.

“We are fortunate in Forrest County to have an evaluation center where we can hold people who are waiting to go to a state bed,” Sims said. “A lot of jurisdictions don’t have that so folks in a mental crisis are being held in jails until a state bed opens up. So, we talked about how more resources need to be added to the state to help with that.”

Sims adds another resource that needs to be added to the local level is Crisis Stabilization Units, which can take individuals in, assess them and determine what’s needed.

“It may be that they do need a commitment and go to a state facility, or they may be off their medication, that stabilization unit can help with that,” Sims said. “They may be able to divert them to an outpatient process or something else that meets their specific needs so that they are not lost in the system and either held in a jail or thrown back out into the streets.”

To further help in implementing mental health care in the community, FCSO is strengthening its co-responder program by partnering with Pine Belt Mental health to have certified personnel go on duty with deputies.

Sims said the sheriff’s office currently has all but two deputies who are Certified Instructional Trainers, a certification held by those with experience and expertise in developing, designing and delivering safety, health and environmental training.

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