HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - The conversation over mental health treatment in this country is being debated once again. This in the aftermath of the latest mass shooting at a Texas church. The debate has reached the coast as well.
After the Texas mass shooting, President Donald Trump weighed in, calling it an issue of mental health and not about guns. You'll hear no argument from Harrison County Sheriff Troy Peterson.
"I agree with that, yes I do," Peterson said. "Anybody that commits a crime of domestic violence has some type of mental health issue. I don't think there's anybody that can believe that a person would go to a church with as many rounds as he had and kill as many people he did and not be a mental health issue."
Peterson estimates that at least 30 percent of the inmate population at the county jail suffers from some type of mental illness. He and others recently trained in Louisiana to deal with mental distress.
"We got to talk to a girl that was a paranoid schizophrenic for years, and she explained to us what her mind tells her every day," Peterson recalled.
One answer for him is a crises intervention team that protects police officers and offers help for the arrested with mental health issues, maybe even at the jail.
"We're looking at making the jail the one point entry, if the law will allow us to do that. Once they come here, we'll have a separate wing for them to come in. Once they are stabilized, then we can push them out for further treatment," said Peterson.
In many cases, mental illness is all in the family. Al Jones is an anger management counselor at the jail.
"They've seen this from parents, grandparents, brothers, and sisters and that it's OK. And then they develop that, and then they try to start taking steps to get out of it, and sometimes it's too late," Jones said.
The bottom line for the sheriff is the issue has to be addressed, and soon.
"We're overwhelmed with mental illness on the coast. We're overwhelmed with not having the capabilities of treating these people the way they should be treated," said Peterson.
Peterson hopes to have the crises intervention team in place sometime in the early part of next year. He also plans on offering training for other law enforcement agencies in South Mississippi.