Dozens gathered to discuss addiction and mental health issues and areas where the state needs improvement at a Behavioral Health Consortium community forum Tuesday night in Wilmington.
"We're not only looking at the opioid issue, but I'm hearing time and time again, a family member who had a broader mental health issue," said Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long.
Hall-Long said an issue, for many, is the stigma that can come with mental health illness.
"They don't know where to turn, and it's stigmatized," said Hall-Long. "It's time to really make sure [that]instead of locking everyone up, we prevent them from getting incarcerated; we prevent them from suffering, and we get them the services they need."
Attendees of the meeting at P.S. duPont Middle School in Wilmington were placed into groups to identify problems, which included a lack of resources from facilities to licensed psychologists. Others claimed there's not enough early intervention programs.
Through early intervention, the state can ensure better outcomes--starting with a patient's first incident and having Narcan available in all schools. The group also discussed harsher penalties for doctors, who are prescribing too many opioids.
Delawareans also suggested the state hire more qualified people to deal with mental illness and addiction issues, provide more geriatric services, and make resources more readily available for everyone.
The series of community forums are aimed at giving the public--up and down the state--a chance to offer their opinions to the Behavioral Health Consortium, which will be tasked with making recommendations to state lawmakers.
"We're going to culminate all of those voices into an action plan that really looks at what is needed, and we're going throughout all communities from the top of the state to the bottom of the state to know what is needed and how to get those resources out to the people that need them," said Dr. Sandra Gibney, St. Francis Hospital and the Behavioral Health Consortium.
Another community forum is in Dover Wednesday, February 7, 2018 and a third is being held in Delaware City on Thursday, February 8, 2018.
A fourth is scheduled for Georgetown next Thursday.