In less than one year, the Pine Belt Mental Healthcare Resources has served over 300 Stone County residents and plan to expand services in the future.

PBMHR Executive Director Mona Gauthier spoke before the Stone County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, September 7, and updated members on the provider's progress.

"We're just getting started," Gauthier said.

Of the 311 patients treated from Stone County, Gauthier said about 100 were children, nearly 200 were adults with mental health needs or substance abuse issues, and 13 individuals received treatment related to intellectual disabilities.

The PBMHR nonprofit replaced Gulf Coast Mental Health Center, which no longer serves the county's healthcare district after financial woes plagued the agency for months.

Pine Belt has been in Stone County since February 2021 and receives $96,004 from the county each year to support localized services to residents. Based in Hattiesburg, Pine Belt can provide mental health services to all ages, including counseling and addiction support.

Gauthier said the Pine Belt has invested in new telephones, electronic medical records, and other upgrades to ensure residents access adequate services.

The nonprofit currently operates in 13 counties and 68 locations throughout South Mississippi. The agency employs over 800. Eight employees work at the Stone County location now, including licensed counselors.

Gauthier said there is one vacant position in Stone she is hoping to fill as soon as possible.

"As we're able to look at caseloads and build up caseloads, Pine Belt will hire people to be able to provide these services as well," Gauthier said. "Hopefully, next year at this time, we'll have even more that we've been able to do."

In addition to serving individuals, Gauthier reported 14 law enforcement officers had completed Pine Belt's crisis intervention training.

CIT training is designed to educate law enforcement on signs of a mental health crisis and trains them to diffuse the situation.

The training is designed to keep officers safe as well as the individual. By knowing the signs of a crisis, officers can adjust their approach and divert someone to a hospital for help rather than a jail cell.

"It's something we've been doing for many years," Gauthier said.

Pine Belt has trained dozens of officers outside of Stone County as well.

Supervisors thanked Gauthier for her time and the updates, commending Pine Belt on their role in the community.

The Board also:

Took the Mississippi Department of Corrections yearly contract with the Stone County Regional Correctional Facility under advisement.

Voted to use grant funding and surplus departmental funds to hire Mike Sigman as the county's assistant emergency management agency director.

Approved payment for county EMA director Mike Williams to become drone certified to better respond to disasters. The training must meet the Federal Aviation Administration standards to assist the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency in searching and rescue efforts.

Held a public hearing for the proposed millage rate for the next four years. No one attended, and Supervisors voted to approve the 2021-2022 fiscal budget, which will be released in the following week.

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