by Becky GINOS
CENTERVILLE—Centerville Mayor Clark Wilkinson is not only concerned about the city but for the residents as a whole. That’s why he and a group of local experts and residents are forming a new program called Centerville Cares.
“When I was running I went door-to-door talking to residents and talked to the police chief,” said Wilkinson. “He said they go out on a number of calls related to mental illness and suicide. It’s a really big concern. I had this idea to put a positive spin on it and create a wellness group.”
Wilkinson said he wanted something to address mental, physical and social well-being.
“The problem (mental illness) seems to be growing rather than getting better,” he said. “There’s a number of things leading to this in our society. We mentioned it in our newsletter and got a number of responses. I reached out to a number of people, three or four doctors, some families who had lost a family member to suicide, the Davis County Health Department and police chief and we came up with Centerville Cares.”
Wilkinson sits on the Board of Directors for Davis Behavioral Health. “In many cases people just throw drugs at the problem and sometimes you have to wonder if that’s the best solution,” he said. “A couple of months ago we got about 12 people together and brainstormed and came up with the name. It’s meant to be an outreach to show as a city we care. We want to provide the opportunity to people through theater, service, recreation and sports to be involved and hope that gives them a way to deal with these issues.”
The city will officially kick off the program at the South Davis County Emergency Preparedness Fair Sept. 8 at the Centerville Megaplex Theaters. “It seems like something we can take part in,” said Wilkinson. “We’ll have presenters within the industry and a community film project to talk about it.”
Presentations include topics on screentime, suicide and opioids, said Isa Perry, Community Outreach Planner for the Davis County Health Department and member of the Centerville Cares group. “The health department’s role is to use evidenced based strategies on how to help,” she said. “You have to be careful not to cause shame and keep messages hopeful. We want to link them to services and make sure the ‘water gets to the end of the row.’”
The health department will help Centerville with strategic planning to get training and information out to more people, said Perry. “The school district and Davis Behavioral Health have joined in trying to find ways to engage the community and cities. We’re very supportive of their (Centerville’s) efforts to form a more connected community. We’re all in this together. We all have struggles. We want to make sure this will have an impact and not just be fluff.”
As a police agency and first responders, Centerville Police Chief Paul Child said they often respond to people who are having a mental health crisis. “We are dealing with that situation regularly,” he said. “If you come sit in a police car for several hours you’ll hear calls from people who are suicidal or in mental or emotional crisis. The police are called to help. We’re all dealing with this on a regular basis.”
Child said they’re called out on attempted suicides or suicides. “It’s always in our face,” he said. “Our officers receive special training but that’s only for the immediate situation to stop the damage from getting worse – but not to fix it. We can’t provide treatment. We’re not trained to give coping skills or medication.”
The mayor went on a ride along with Child and talked about the challenges. “I mentioned my top concern was mental wellness,” he said. “Chiefs everywhere have the same problem. We’re always attending training to better understand the complexities of someone having a mental breakdown or crisis. We try to handle it as professionally as possible. But we’re just one piece of the puzzle. We can’t do it alone it’s a community effort.”
The mayor hopes Centerville Cares can provide residents with the help they need. “It’s all falling into place – it’s the right thing to do,” said Wilkinson. “You could probably find that every home has been affected by mental health issues.”