First steps taken toward new pre-arrest diversion center

Center will be available for mental health and substance use and co-occurring disease

First steps taken toward new pre-arrest diversion center

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - A meeting was held at the Jackie Dole Sherrill Community Center on Friday morning to discuss the first steps of building a new pre-arrest diversion center.

The center’s aims would be to divert individuals with behavioral health disorders from the criminal justice system and into coordinated, high quality programs that treat people with respect. The services would be available for those suffering from mental health issues, substance abuse and co-occurring diseases.

“Forrest County, Hattiesburg, Lamar County area has a need for that as well,” said Charlie Sims, Assistant Director of Public Safety for Forrest General Hospital. “In our area, we’ve got a diversion center up in Laurel with Westway.”

The guest speaker for the day-long event was Maj. Sam Cochran (ret.), Co-Chairman of the CIT International Board of Directors. Participants said this center will improve community safety and quality of life.

“Many law enforcement officers in this area are crisis intervention trained certified, so they are CIT officers and they go through a 40-hour training in which they are trained by mental health professionals,” said Anthony Bullock.

The meeting was a conversation starter for local officials, law enforcement and people in the community to talk about the plans of one day building a center in the Forrest County area.

Hattiesburg Mayor Toby Barker made an introduction to get the event started at 9 a.m. and was followed by several community leaders and Pine Belt mental health representatives.

The program included a virtual tour of the proposed center, lunch, a stakeholder engagement activity, a model for initial funding and long term sustainability and a planning session.

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