Mental health issues and substance abuse is a well known issue that’s not unique to Gadsden County. However, Gadsden County Sheriff Morris A. Young has been a longtime advocate for mental health.
On Thursday, November 16, 2023, Sheriff Young was honored for his contributions to regional mental healthcare by receiving the Apalachee Mental Health Champion Award.
“A few years back the Gadsden County sheriff discovered something that made a difference in the lives of many; he discovered that many of the of the inmates coming into the Gadsden County Jail were suffering from mental health or substance abuse issues and he decided to do something about it,” said Reginald James, manages the sheriff’s mental health program. “He lobbied the governor and got a grant for $1.2 million and partnered with Apalachee to make a difference in the lives of those persons suffering from those conditions.”
The $1.2 million from the Department of Children and Families was used to implement the Gadsden County Criminal Justice Diversionary Program three years ago.
James said as a result, 144 inmates have been served through that program.
It has also provided HIV/STD prevention services for 114 clients.
The award was presented by Jay Reeve, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Apalachee Center in Tallahassee, Florida.
“It has been my absolute privilege to partner with Sheriff Young and the Gadsden County Sheriff’s Office,” Reeves said.
Reeves also said while Apalachee Center does give out awards, this particular award was created especially for Sheriff Young and has never been presented before.
Reeves said Young is a man of vision, a man of insight, who understands what the center is trying to do.
“When we looked at some of the underlying causes of why a lot of folks were being incarcerated, we discovered it had a lot to do with mental health and substance abuse issues here in Gadsden County,” Young said. “We’ve seen where this has decreased the recidivism rate here locally, and if we can continue to work on the mental health and substance abuse issues in the community we will see a true decline in a lot of our problems that cause people to be incarcerated and bridge families back together.”
Young said he plans to continue looking for and securing grant funding and building relationships with local, state, and federal stakeholders to ensure programs like these stay in Gadsden County.
Chris Daniels – Gadsden County News Service