January 27-- If you have a family member with mental illness, you know this story all too well.
There are few alternatives for treatment and when someone is in crisis, often the only choice is to call law enforcement and hope that a trained crisis intervention officer shows up.
According to Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight, "The Georgia legislature has failed to deal with the issue of mental health problems. As time goes on, we keep growing numbers. The government has got to realized we've got a problem and we've got to deal with it."
Sheriff Kight says his deputies responded to 244 mental health and drug addict calls in 2012 in Toombs County.
Given the situation, a local family support group was formed last year to help people get some help from the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Cheryl Williams, a guidance counselor at Vidalia High School, helped form the group which meets the second and fourth Tuesday of each month at 6:30 in the Dixon Community Center at the Ed Smith Recreation Complex in Vidalia.
"I received some training and now we have a family support group for family members who are dealing with a loved one with a mental health diagnosis," she says.
Both Williams and Sheriff Kight says a big problem is keeping mental health patients on their medication. They say problems usually happen when patients decide they don't need it anymore and suffer the consequences when they stop taking it.
One new hopeful development is a new Georgia Crisis and Access Line which Williams says can offer immediate help to families in crisis.
"You make a phone call and they ask you a series of questions. Sometimes they'll send a team out to your house and depending on the situation they'll say this person needs to see a doctor or no, we need to call 911," Williams reports.
The phone number is 1-800-715-4225. You find information about the service at www.mygcal.com .
For information on the Georgia chaper of the National Alliance on Mental Health, go to www.namiga.org . Their helpline is 1-800-728-1052.