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State College-Centre County mental health task force slated to complete report in November

Centre Daily Times - 9/15/2020

Sep. 15--When Patricia Best became chair of the State College-Centre County mental health task force in January, she compared its schedule to a relay race. Its members had "plotted the track ahead" and "anticipated curves and straightaways."

"We were confident we could complete our task and finish that leg by July," Best said during Tuesday's board of commissioners meeting. "So to say that the COVID-19 crisis and all of its serious, serious ramifications presented a challenging curve would be an understatement -- more like a hurdle race than it was a relay race."

The task force is comprised of 30 people and aims to evaluate Centre County's mental health system and crisis services. It was formed, in part, as a response to the fatal police shooting of 29-year-old State College resident Osaze Osagie in 2019. Those who sit on the task force represent a variety of perspectives and include county officials, representatives from area school districts, community members, medical professionals and law enforcement officers.

Though slightly delayed after former chair Billie Willits died last November, the task force was set back nearly four months in drafting a final report by the COVID-19 pandemic. After using the summer to adjust, the task force is set to complete its final report in November.

"This is a very complex system, with a lot of transitions and overlap, which is good," Best said. "That's a good thing."

Divided into small teams of four, the task force is examining mobile crisis services, delegate crisis services, involuntary commitment and the 302 warrant process, police officers' role in responding to crisis, emergency department procedures and post-emergency procedure.

"We are now in the process, be careful what you ask for, we have a lot of information and a lot of perspective and just a lot of resources at our disposal," she said.

The task force is slated to meet for another work session next week to discuss and fine tune recommendations to be included in the report, Best said. A draft of the final report is expected to be complete in October. A public meeting will be held so that members of the community may offer input on the document.

The meeting will be held virtually and announced once a date is finalized.

"The charge is a complex one," Best said. "We are committed -- as we said really from the beginning -- to bringing you something that, to the best of our ability, is accurate, is thorough, is evidence-based where it can be, is forthright and is actionable -- most of all -- actionable."


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