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Questions for candidates: How can the county attorney help ensure mental health services are available

Post-Bulletin - 10/15/2018

Oct. 15--Addressing gaps in care for mental health patients has been a growing concern locally, with fears that people needing treatment may end up behind bars rather than in a helpful environment.

Candidates for Olmsted County attorney were asked what the office can do to better ensure people suffering a mental health crisis get the help they need.

Here are their responses:

Mark Ostrem

The county attorney must support community initiatives that distinguish mental health crises from criminal matters. I support public safety intervention at a level that fits risk and need, such as supporting law enforcement Crisis Intervention Teams. I will continue to prioritize staff training and education of mental health issues, trauma and risk assessments for my office.

Advancing my current relationships with community leaders and other justice involved departments, to unify resources and strengthen our efforts to address community mental health, remains my priority. As a statewide leader, I will remain abreast of mental health research and lead our work linking the efforts of the civil and criminal divisions within our office to meet the needs of citizens who struggle with mental health issues.

I will continue to participate in local and statewide initiatives to understand community mental health needs and work with local leaders to address them.

Geoff Hjerleid

In addition to experienced representation in cases involving mental illness, the county attorney's office must collaborate with our local health care providers, Department of Human Services, law enforcement, and social services to prevent persons suffering from mental illness from being incarcerated, and assist in placing those persons in the least restrictive setting which meets their health needs, and ensures their and the public's safety.

As county attorney, I will be an unrelenting advocate in lobbying policy makers at all government levels for increased resources for our mental health and chemical dependency systems. To assist the efforts to bring the stigma of mental illness out of the darkness, as a public official, I will share my experiences with chemical dependency and abuse, mental illness, suicide, PTSD, depression, and traumatic brain injury, and, with their permission, the experiences of my family, friends, and colleagues. Mental Illness and chemical dependency affect us all.

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(c)2018 the Post-Bulletin

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