“When we last spoke on March 3, I concluded those remarks of a comparison of our work to a relay race team,” said Patricia Best in an update on the State College/ Centre County Task Force on Mental Health Crisis Services to the Centre County Board on Sept 15. Best took over as chair of the task force in January.
“I said that we had a strong start coming out of the blocks, we had plotted the track ahead, we defined our lane, established out pace, we anticipated curves and straightaways even possible stumbles that could impact out progress. We were confident we could complete our task and finish that leg by July. To say that the COVID crisis, in all of its serious, serious ramifications, presented a challenging curve would be an understatement. It was more like a hurdle race than a relay race.”
In March and April, the groups had no in-person meetings due to the pandemic. In May and June, they revised their timelines and plans now to come back with their final report to the county and State College Borough in November.
The State College and Centre County governments, with $50,000 in borough funding, jointly convened the 30-member task force in September 2019 in the wake of the March 20, 2019, police shooting death of Osaze Osagie, a 29-year-old State College resident who was diagnosed with autism and schizophrenia, and the subsequent community discussions in the county.
The charge of the group was to recommend enhancements to and identify strengths of the mental health delivery system in Centre County.
The area the mental health system being examined include mobile crisis services, delegate services, involuntary commitment warrant procedure, police officers’ role in responding to metal heath calls and 302 warrant procedures, emergency department procedure and post-emergency department services. The group has developed a map that detail those services.
“This is a very complex system, with a lot of transitions and overlaps, which is good, but also very hard to depict simply. But we have been working on this graphic as we have gone along,” said Best. “We have come to the conclusion that audience of this graphic is going to be the decision makers and the stakeholders, not a client map.”
Best said over the past couple of months the task force broke into four smaller teams — a mobile team, a delegate team, a law enforcement team and an emergency department team.
The task force in now working toward a recommendation to bring to the board and borough as part of the final report in November.
The task force encourages feedback from the public on State College Borough’s website.
“The charge is a very complex one. We are committed, as we said from the very beginning, to bringing you something that is to the best of our ability is accurate thorough, is evidence based where it can be, is forthright and is actionable,” said Best.