As a Community of Faith, Moving Toward Families At Risk and Learning to Care

Last Saturday the Gilbert Mayors' Behavioral Health and Substance Use Task Force held its first Crisis Care Team (CCT) Training for faith leaders. The emphasis was on families at risk, in particular, those affected by serious mental illness. It was a good beginning and the response from the faith groups was encouraging as there was desire expressed to continue to learn and develop their own CCTs. Jessica Carnahan, Community Resources Project Manager began the program with an overview of Gilbert's Human Services Needs Assessment from 2014.

It was apparent from the community leaders who spoke, caring for people with complex needs is a widespread issue that is having a significant impact on Police, Fire and school districts in our community. Chief of police Tim Dorn taught about the importance of not waiting too long to call for emergency services. People hesitate because of lack of trust, but by waiting, the situation can actually escalate and often does. He also shared that when you call 911, it is important to give as much information as you possibly can. Chief Dorn also added that the numbers reflected in the chart of the CCT manual (Table 9) of the Gilbert Mental Health Related Public Safety Calls were extremely low. Many calls categorized under "domestic violence" are actually related to mental health issues. 

Town of Gilbert Assistant Fire Chief, Bob Badgett, shared from the perspective of his department. EMT's have 14 months of training as a Paramedic with only one hour of training in behavioral health calls. They operate under the medical license of our local hospital, Mercy Gilbert, and do not have a choice as to where they may transport a patient. It is all directed by the doctor on call who they communicate with on any given day. Fire departments may only transport patients to local Emergency Rooms, not psychiatric centers or hospitals.

Susan Cadena with Gilbert Public Schools shared how the district began to collaborate and be intentional with their communication as they care for students at risk in their schools. Given that Gilbert has over 40 schools in their district, this is no small feat!   This was so helpful and is the model we hope to emulate in our curriculum and training of faith groups. 

We also heard from Pastor Trey Richardson who gave a talk on the importance of prayer as a resource for faith leaders. I (Deborah Geesling) shared briefly on the family perspective of caring for people with serious mental illness in a practical way and explained the importance of Arizona's Caregiver and Family Bill of Rights.

A very special thank you goes out to our Chair of the Mayor's BHSU Task Force, and emcee for the event, Jon McHatton. He spent many hours developing this curriculum and planning this event. We cannot thank him enough for carrying the vulnerable in our communities on his heart and turning that concern into action. We are indebted for the trail he is only beginning to blaze.