Champaign to consider new mental health program

By Stephen Nye

This change will hopeefully come in the form of a new program.

The program, proposed by Champaign County Sheriff Dan Walsh and Champaign County Mental Health Executive Director Peter Tracy, is intended to keep both potential offenders and confirmed offenders out of jail and help them get sufficient treatmentbrJT.

Tracy said the program would allow people to resume normal lives with the help of law enforcement and a detox center, a resource which has never been present in Champaign.

In an attempt to publicize and advocate for the program, Walsh and Tracy held a meeting.

It was designed to convince stakeholders in the community of the benefits of the program and to receive feedback from the average members of the community and a number of members of The National Alliance On Mental Illness.

The discussion, which was held on Sept. 30 at the Brookens Building, focused on how the program would keep those with mental illnesses and drug addictions out of prison and help rehabilitate them successfullybrJT.

Walsh said “years of Champaign having no place to deal with severe mental illnesses and significant addiction problems,” led to the decision to hold a discussion.

Feedback from the community — about 100 people were in attendance, Tracy said — also prompted organizers to consider adding provisions for family and friends of people with mental illness or addiction.

“Families themselves need help,” Walsh said.

The meeting was not the only avenue for the community to give feedback.

Feedback can also be sent to an email specifically for the program.

Tracy said he has also received a number of phone calls and has received considerable, positive feedback; some of the feedback has even come from students.

Matthew Rice, freshman in LASbrJT, said he is “absolutely” in support of the program and hopes it is funded.

“People who commit crimes because of, or related to, drug addiction should not be sent to prison,” he said. “They should be sent directly to rehab centers.”

Rice said he would like to see the program have a strong campus presence too.

But, despite the goals and community support, there are issues facing the program.

Tracy said the program is facing “serious funding austerity,” because city funded programs are starting to cut staff due to budget challenges.

He said proving to the city that the program is a valid use of public funds will be a challenge going forward.

Additionally, he said collaborating resources and cooperating with other organizations will be both necessary and difficult.

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