Pettis County Sheriff Kevin Bond will speak about the local Stepping Up Initiative at a national conference in Washington, D.C., next month.

Bond said he was invited by the National Association of Counties (NACo) to speak Feb. 5 about the local chapter of the Stepping Up Initiative in Washington, D.C., at the National Sheriff’s Association Legislative Conference. He will speak along with the sheriff of Bangor, Maine.

“I’m very honored … obviously that’s a national recognition,” Bond said. “It’s a big event, it’s not as well attended as the summer conference, but it is heavily attended.”

He noted he would speak about the strides Pettis County has made in introducing the Stepping Up Initiative and how diverse agencies have come together in support of mental health issues. He will also talk about the Stepping Up program as a whole.

“I’ll talk about the movement and the training,” he added. “It’s going to be a seminar for sheriffs to be able to recreate in their own local communities.”

Bond said during Thursday’s Stepping Up meeting another advancement toward mental health assistance was with the court diversion program. Pettis County Associate Circuit Judge Paul Beard, chairman of the court diversion subcommittee, announced he was ready to move forward with the Pettis County Mental Health Criminal Diversion Program.

“Our committee’s assignment is to create a program or system where those who are suffering from mental illness can be diverted from the court system,” Beard had explained in a previous meeting. “We created a program that doesn’t involve the court system.”

“He presented the packet of documents that are needed for individuals to fill out to be accepted into the program,” Bond noted. “We front-lined service providers and we are getting ready to schedule training.”

The first training session will be for Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) officers, Wednesday, Jan. 18 at the Pettis County Sheriff’s Office.

“Then, that will also be recreated,” Bond said. “Probation and parole will do it, mental health professionals, and I’m sure the hospital, the ER providers, and all the different disciplines that have front-end contact with people who are in crisis. (They) will essentially have this resource to be able to divert them into this program.”

Bond also said JoAnn Martin, chair of the boundary spanner subcommittee, told the group she was able to move forward with paperwork to register with the state of Missouri for the organization’s nonprofit and 501(c)3 status through the federal government.

“The officers from the Mental Health Coalition, after the meeting, signed the necessary paperwork,” Bond added. “That starts the process for us to able to apply, administer and receive grants.”

Bond mentioned that the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) subcommittee noted they are now having monthly sessions from 6:30 to 8 p.m. the third Thursday of the month at Epworth United Methodist Church. They also have a brochure.

Also during this month’s meeting, Bond said Dorothy Arvizu would replace Dan Lester as the chairperson for the diversion center subcommittee.

Bond noted the West Central Missouri CIT Council, that takes in five counties, will present its first local CIT training for law enforcement officers in April at State Fair Community College. Sedalia Police Officer Mark Cherry and Warrensburg Police Chief Rich Lockhart will present the training. The training will take in four 10-hour days.

“It’s close by, they are not having to go to St. Louis or even to Columbia to get that training,” Bond said.

Lockhart was in attendance at Thursday’s meeting as well as Bothwell Regional Health Center President and CEO Jimmy Robertson. Bond added that he is pleased to see new faces at each meeting, especially this month with the snow that fell Thursday.

“We had a nice turnout there was at least 25 to 30 that were there,” Bond said. “We had a really good turnout.”

By Faith Bemiss | Sedalia Democrat