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Officials discuss bringing ‘Stepping Up’ mental health program to county

Key local leaders in the areas of mental health, public safety and the courts came together last week to discuss “Stepping Up,” a nationwide program aimed at reducing the number of people with mental illnesses in jails.

Latoya Witherspoon of the West Alabama Mental Health Center led the program and will be serving as the Stepping Up coordinator for Marengo County.

During the meeting, the group discussed the benefits of the Stepping Up initiative and forming a coalition among local groups to meet goals.

“Stepping Up is a national movement to provide counties with the tools they need to develop cross-systems, data-driven strategies that can lead to measureable reductions in the number of people with serious mental illness and co-occuring disorders in jail and emergency rooms,” Witherspoon said.

The keynote speaker for the event was Marengo County Probate Judge Laurie Hall, who also was recently appointed to the Alabama Mental Health Sterring Committee.

This is the second year for Stepping Up in Alabama with Shelby, Morgan, Cherokee, Cullman, Madison, and Jackson counties having been funded in year one. This year, Marengo is being added along with Mobile, Chambers, Tuscaloosa and Limestone counties.

(This article originally appeared in the Wednesday, February 5 issue of the Demopolis Times.)