Hattiesburg Mayor proclaims National Prevention Week

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Hattiesburg Mayor Toby Barker signed a proclamation at the Hattiesburg Municipal Court Monday declaring May 13 - 19 as National Prevention Week, which is aimed at increasing awareness of mental illness and substance abuse disorder nationally.

In honor of National Prevention Week, several partners in connection with the Hattiesburg Behavioral Health Court, such as the Hattiesburg Police Department and the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Mississippi, were recognized for their efforts to keep people with mental disorders off the streets, out the jails and into proper treatment.

"We're unique," said Professor and Director of the Doctoral Program for the School of Criminal Justice Dr. Wesley Johnson. "We're the first mental health behavioral court in the state of Mississippi, and we're also one of the first small municipality courts in the United States."

Judge Wes Curry from the Hattiesburg Municipal Court said approximately 18 participants are currently in the program with 8 on the pending list. The program increases their access to mental health treatment as well as other services such as job training skills, education, and housing assistance.

Dr. Joe Kinnan with the National Association for Mental Illness of Mississippi said the Pine Belt is taking a lead in their attempts to assist the mentally ill.

"The Pinebelt in general, Jones County and Forrest County, has taken a lead with the crisis intervention team concept, and of course Hattiesburg has the only Behavioral health court," Kinnan said. "So, it's way out front as far as proactive in this issue, and I hope that continues throughout the state."